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r I ^HE name of this book is borrowed from the 
-*- Ode in which Pindar has enshrined the love- 
liest of fairy stories the " leaf-fringed legend ' 
of the Pansy Child. The poet was bidden to pre- 
pare that Ode in honour of a friend's victory in 
the Olympic Games, and he likens his task to 
the building of a palace. Golden pillars, he says, 
must bear up the porch of this House of Song, 
and the glories of the victor shall form those 
pillars, glittering afar in the sumptuous frontal 
of the fabric. Now, chief among the victor's 
glories, was his descent from the namesake of the 
Pansy, the holy Seer of Olympia, and so, through 
that Golden Porch, Pindar leads us into Fairy- 

In adding one more to the innumerable collec- 
tions of stories from the Greek, I have hoped to 
break fresh ground by reproducing the myths of 
Pindar's Odes, as far as possible in a free trans- 
lation, and with such additions only as were 


needed to form a framework. Some of these 
legends are already wholly or partly familiar, 
but several will be new, I think, to English 

It may be said that Greek myths, especially as 
handled by the poet who wove into them his 
deepest criticisms of life, are misleadingly, if not 
profanely, entitled fairy tales. 

But I would plead that nothing in Greek litera- 
ture, except the stories of Herodotus, is so steeped 
in the true fairy atmosphere as are the myths 
of Pindar. I need not speak of Aeschylus, the 
creatures of whose Titanic imagination belong to 
a universe of their own; but consider, for example, 
the poet of the Odyssey. His wonder-world, 
though real, lies far away ; Odysseus, he makes us 
feel, has only to get back to Ithaca, and he has 
no more chance of encountering a Cyclops or a 
Laestrygon than you or I have. For Pindar, on 
the contrary, all Hellas is enchanted ground ; it 
was in Arcadia, in Argos, in his own Thebes, that 
men of old fought uncanny monsters, entertained 
divinity unawares, and learnt Earth's secrets from 
talking beasts and birds. What wonder, if for 
him, living in such a land, and turning from the 
upheaval of a new era to gaze fondly on an ideal 


past, that vanished world came alive again ! At 
least, it is one charm of his story-telling that he 
seems to be describing things he saw happen with 
his own eyes, and another, that the marvels befall 
quite simply, and, so to speak, intelligibly, in the 
natural course of events. 

To these essentials of the perfect fairy tale, 
Pindar adds the accepted dramatis personae the 
brave young prince, the wicked king, his foil, and 
the incomparably beautiful princess. And always, 
as in fairy tales all the world over, the wicked 
king comes to a bad end, while the deserving hero 
lives happy ever after. 

The legends of the Trojan War belong of 
course to a different category, for between the 
time of Heracles and the time of Achilles the sun 
of the fairy age has set. 

It should perhaps be mentioned that some of 
the stories here presented are put together from 
the myths of several Odes, and most contain a 
good deal not to be found in Pindar. But where 
I have used other sources, or invented details, I 
have tried firstly to introduce no version of a 
myth not undoubtedly current in Pindar's day, 
and secondly, to remember his maxim, that " dis- 
paragement of the gods is a hateful art." 






DAUGHTER . ... 97 











CHIRON ..... ,, ,, 140 

BUILDING THE ARGO . . . . ,, ,,170 

MEDEA'S MIRACLE .... ,, ,, 196 


ORACLE ..... ,, ,, 204 





HE that erst these legends told 

Sang in far-off days of gold, 

Ere yet from Earth the bright gods went, 

Or toiling mortals, prison-pent 

Where the frowning cities stand, 

Forgot the way to Fairyland. 

A blissful child, thro' greenwood bowers 

He strayed, amid the April flowers, 

And there, 'tis told, he once was found 

On pansy pillow sleeping sound, 

While the dusky mountain bees 

Left for him the clover leas, 

Left bluebell copse and crocus mead, 

On his dreaming lips to feed. 

But, for kisses that they stole, 

The winged thieves paid wondrous toll, 

Hallowing with chrism pure 

Those baby lips, their rose-red lure. 

Strange the might, as I shall tell, 

Hidden in that honey-spell ! 

For the child, a stripling grown, 

Still would haunt the forest lone, 

Musing, ferny ways along, 

The golden themes of antique song 


xiv PROEM 

Wars and perilous wanderings, 
Ancient marvels, hero-kings 
Vanquishing in dauntless mood 
Earth's primaeval dragon-brood, 
All glittering quests, all glories won 
Since Time's great wheel began to run. 
So, like a bee, his aery thought 
Store of secret treasure wrought 
From every bud and blossom bright 
In Memory's garden of delight. 
Many a Summer morn the boy 
Ranged the dewy woods in joy ; 
Many an eve sat, half a-dream, 
Where hazels hid a tinkling stream, 
While softly to its drowsy chime 
His lute's low harmonies kept time. 
Then, in some divinest hour, 
The magic of the wild-bee dower, 
Swift as blaze of slumbering flame, 
Sent a rapture thro' his frame. 
To the runnel's brink he sprang, 
Struck his Dorian lute and sang 
Such a song, the nightingale 
Hearing, hushed her plaintive tale ; 
Such a song, the goat-foot Pan 
Envied once a child of man ! 
Yes, the God whose music thrills 
Thro' silent places of the hills, 
The Watcher of the upland flocks 
Who pipes at noon upon the rocks, 


Tiptoed near, the boughs among, 

Fain to learn that mortal song, 

And oft, since then, his reed flung by 

To carol it in Arcady. 

Great Pan is dead ; the woodlands hoar 

Ring to his wild notes no more ; 

And the voice he loved that day 

Long from Earth has past away. 

Yet still in this her wintry age 

Its honey breathes from PINDAR'S page, 

Whereon who looks shall seem to hear 

Its very accents warbling clear 

Of Thebes or Troy the tale sublime, 

Or some green idyll of the prime, 

In that sweetest human tongue 

Moulded when the world was young. 

Ah, might these dissonant echoes vain 
Retrieve one cadence of the strain ! 



TONG, long ago, in an Eastern land, there 
i ' lived a King who was the richest man in 
the world. The rivers in his country ran over 
golden sands, and their banks sparkled with gems 
instead of pebbles. The King's fields were full 
of stones, but he did not mind that, for every 
stone was a lump of silver, and the hillsides were 
bursting with rich red copper, which was even 
better than gold or silver for making shields and 
helmets and suits of armour. All the wealth of 
the land was the King's very own, and he hardly 
knew what to do with it all, he had so much. 
Besides being so rich, Tantalus, for that was his 
name, was so lucky in everything he put his 
hand to, that people began to say he was the 
special favourite of the gods, who had given him 
everything the heart of man can desire. Now 
for a long while, Tantalus deserved all his good 
fortune ; he was kind and just to his subjects, 
and famous far and near for his boundless hospi- 
tality to strangers. High and low, rich and poor, 



all travellers were welcome to his house, to stay 
as long as they would, faring sumptuously every 
day, and none departed without splendid presents. 
But his heart grew uplifted with the pride of his 
power and glory, till he would not be content, 
and longed to make himself still more renowned 
and envied among men. No king had a more 
stately dwelling than the palace in the city, which 
his forefathers had builded, but Tantalus began 
to despise it as unworthy of his majesty, and it 
came into his mind that his people would pay 
him yet greater honour and reverence if they 
were not permitted to see his splendour every 
day. He resolved to build himself a palace on 
a mountain-top, a golden house that should 
dazzle the eyes of all beholders, and dwell there 
aloof, like a god in his temple ; then when he 
came down to the city, the sight of him would 
be a nine days' wonder, and the folk would begin 
to think of him as greater and more glorious 
than a mortal man. 

So the golden house was built, and shone 
like a star on the rocky crest of the mountain. 
Far below in the city, men looked up to that 
glittering speck among the clouds, and said that 
their great King was neighbour now to the gods 
above. When Tantalus saw the finished work, 
his heart swelled with triumph and delight ; he 
walked through its marble courts, where fountains 


spouted from the jaws of golden dragons, through 
colonnades of silver pillars, shaped like palm trees, 
with broad fans of gold and clustering fruit of 
rubies, and came to the banqueting-hall, which 
was like a vast bower of roses, yellow, white, and 
pink, but the twining branches were golden, and 
all the roseleaves were pearls. The ceiling was 
enamel, the colour of the sky on a summer night, 
and at dusk it glowed like the sky with a thousand 
stars, which were lamps hollowed out of gems. 
Tantalus had ordered a splendid feast to be made 
ready, that he might sup for the first time in this 
hall of roses. He watched the troops of slaves 
spreading cushions of cloth of gold on ivory 
chairs and couches, and setting forth food and 
wine on tables of carved alabaster, in dishes of 
gold and flagons of crystal or amethyst, and a 
sad thought came to him in the height of his 
pleasure. One thing was lacking to this feast, 
though it was more magnificent than ever king 
had dreamed of. For what was a feast without 
guests ? What, after all, was the good of having 
a golden palace, and a hall encrusted with pearls, 
when he had no one but his own courtiers to sit 
at his table and tell him how wonderful it all 
was ? Some day, no doubt, he might entertain 
some neighbour king, who would go away quite 
humbled by the sight of these glories, but he fetl 
that nothing would ever entirely console him for 


the want of guests, whose praise was really worth 
having, guests who were his equals, to share his 
feast that first night. As he thought thus, he 
heard one of the courtiers, who had all followed 
him through the palace with cries of delighted 
wonder, say to the rest, " Truly, our lord the 
King has built him a house that has not its 
like on earth, and there can be nothing more 
marvellous even in heaven. See, my friends, 
how glorious is this chamber, where he will hold 
his royal feast ! Would you not think that 
gods, rather than men, were the expected guests 
at such a banquet ? " 

These words seemed to Tantalus an answer to 
his unspoken wish. The gods ! Yes, they and 
only they were guests worthy of him and his 
surpassing splendours. With a proud gesture, 
he threw up his hands heavenward, and cried 
aloud, " I, Tantalus the King, bid the gods, one 
and all, come taste of my good cheer." 

No sooner had he spoken than a clap of 
thunder shook the palace, and the courtyard 
rang with the noise of horse-hoofs and of chariot- 
wheels. The doors of the banqueting hall flew 
open as if blown by a gust of wind, and a great 
golden -brown eagle stalked through them up 
the room, and perched upon the throne where 
Tantalus was to sit. Next moment, a light 
streamed from the doorway, brighter a thousand 


times than the radiance of the star-shaped lamps. 
So dazzling it was, that the King and his train 
covered their faces, and durst not look up. But 
then was heard a sound of trailing robes and 
gentle laughter, and a voice of unearthly sweet- 
ness said, "Fear not, Tantalus, but look upon 
your guests and make them welcome, for those 
you bade to your feast are come." With that, 
a soft hand drew away the King's hand from 
before his eyes, and he saw that she who spoke 
was Iris, the messenger of the gods. For she 
had wings such as you may see in pictures of 
the angels, only these were not white, but 
shimmered with all the colours of the rainbow, 
and Tantalus knew that the rainbow in the sky 
is the reflection of those bright wings which carry 
Iris over land and sea on the errands of the 
Immortals. She now led the King to a seat at 
the highest table, and, gathering courage to look 
about him, he saw that a great company were 
already sitting at the banquet, while his slaves 
and courtiers seemed to have lost their fear, and 
were waiting duteously upon them. On his own 
royal throne sat one who seemed another but 
a far more majestic king, crowned and sceptred, 
and the eagle perched beside him ; and where 
the Queen of Tantalus should have sat, was 
another Queen, with whom no mortal princess 
could compare for stately beauty, wearing, like 


a bride, a coronet of flowers and a flowing veil 
inwrought with golden lilies. She, alone of the 
guests, seemed to look disdainfully at that 
glittering chamber, and, while the rest feasted 
and made merry, she leaned back in her ivory 
chair, stroking the sheeny neck of a peacock that 
stood stiffly beside her with gorgeous tail out- 
spread. Tantalus knew that those two must be 
Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the gods, 
and pride mingled with awe in his heart, to see 
the greatest of the Immortals seated as guests 
under his roof. Zeus, that dread lord of the 
sky, whose mighty arm could hurl thunderbolts 
in his wrath, had laid aside the fulness of his 
glory, which was too bright for mortal eyes to 
bear, and appeared in mild and gracious majesty ; 
he smiled gravely and kindly on his host, and 
Tantalus took courage to watch the rest of that 
heavenly company. Not far from Zeus sat a 
god who looked like his brother, which indeed 
he was, but he had a sterner face and a less 
kingly bearing, and wore no crown upon his 
long black locks. Instead of a sceptre, he held 
a trident of rock-crystal, and by this it was easy 
to know him for Poseidon, who had power over 
the sea, and all rivers and springs. Men feared 
the anger of Poseidon scarcely less than that of 
Zeus, because, though he had no thunderbolts, 
he could make the earth rend and quake, or 


the sea run mountains high, with one blow of 
his trident. But though he was fierce and 
terrible if offended, none of the Immortals was 
more kindly to the race of man, and none, it 
was said, was so faithful a friend to those who 
had once pleased him. And this, as you will 
hear presently, was a true saying. 

Close to Poseidon, and leaning lovingly against 
his broad shoulder, Tantalus saw a bright-haired 
youth, at whose feet lay a bow and quiver, and a 
golden lyre. It was the archer Apollo, who is 
the sweet singer of heaven, and near him sat nine 


fair sisters crowned with violets, who are called 
the Muses. As the feast went on, another youth, 
whose smiling eyes sparkled with mischief, slipped 
from his place and stood behind Apollo, and 
stealthily picked up the golden lyre. But Apollo 
turned, and took it from him laughing, and said, 
"Ah, thieving Hermes! Did you not give me 
this to make amends for the kine you stole from 
me in the Arcadian pastures, when you were yet 
a little roguish boy, and now would you .steal it 
too? Nay, let me keep it, my brother, and you 
shall hear me sing with the Nine, in honour of 
our kind host. Then Tantalus looked eagerly at 
the merry face of Hermes, for there were many 
greater gods, but none more beloved than he, the 
god of homely shepherds and of wayfarers. He 
wore the cap and sandals of a traveller, but his 


cap was the cap of darkness, that made the wearer 
invisible when he pleased, and his sandals were 
the shoes of swiftness, that carried him dryshod 
over the surface of the sea. The King knew that 
all unlooked-for good luck, and all treasure trove, 
is the gift of Hermes, and he it is who charms 
asleep the eyes of whom he will, with the waving 
of the wand he carries. 

And now Apollo sang to the golden lyre, and 
the Nine Muses sang with him. They sang in 
praise of Tantalus, the generous, the hospitable, 
the bounteous friend of the needy and the 
stranger, and how his name was glorious in many 
lands. They told how the gods looked down 
with favour on the good deeds that he had done, 
and how, in days to come, that favour should not 
cease from his house, but bring yet greater glory 
upon his children's children. That golden palace, 
they declared, should vanish from the earth, and 
be no more remembered, but generations yet 
unborn should marvel while mighty bards told 
in song the wondrous story of the race of 

Now Apollo and those violet-crowned goddesses 
sang so enchantingly that not only the mortals but 
the heavenly guests who heard them sat as if 
spell-bound. Even the eagle, which had made 
Tantalus uneasy from time to time by fixing a 
fierce gaze upon him, and snapping its terrible 


hooked beak, was lulled asleep by the gracious 
harmony, and sat with bluish eyelids closed, 
motionless but for the rise and fall of its feathers, 
like ripples on brown water, as its glossy back 
heaved in slumber. 

When the song ceased, Tantalus started as 
though wakened from a dream, and looked 
round him, almost fearing that he had only 
seen the forms of the Immortals in a vision. 
But it was all real, and no vision; there they 
were still sitting, those wondrous guests, with the 
same calm smile on their beautiful statue-like 
faces. At that moment Zeus, who had not yet 
spoken to the King, leaned forward and said 
in deep, grave tones, " Right royally have you 
feasted us, O Tantalus, and we thank you for 
your good cheer. But since I know well that 
you are the most generous of hosts, I wonder 
that you should let one thing be wanting at 
your banquet." 

" What thing is that, O King of gods and 
men ? " asked Tantalus humbly (yet he was 
secretly angry that even Zeus should find fault 
with him) ; " I am a mere mortal," he added, 
" but the best a mortal can give I, surely, have 
set before you." 

"Nay, my friend," Zeus answered, "the one 
thing you have not offered us is your best. 
Your costly fare, your gold and gems and ivory, 


are these your greatest treasures ? Think again, 
if you have not something still more precious." 

Then turning to Hera, who was smiling very 
scornfully, he said, " Our generous host, my 
Queen, is not the man to deny his guests the 
choicest of his possessions ; he has but forgotten 
for a moment what it is." 

Just then, a curtain of Tynan crimson that 
hung behind the throne was drawn quickly aside, 
and a little child ran laughing into the hall. It 
was the King's only son, the darling of his heart. 
Frightened slaves had told the Queen, his mother, 
that the gods were come down out of heaven to 
the King's feast, and she had not dared to behold 
them. But the child wanted so much to see 
what the gods were like, that he slipped away 
from her side, and now he stood gazing on them 
without the least fear, for indeed he was too 
young and too happy to be afraid of anything. 
His father saw the little lad look up into the face 
of Zeus with such innocent wonder that the god 
smiled, and laid his hand tenderly on the curly 

" How say you now, Tantalus ? " he said : 
"Will you not own that you have kept back one 
treasure, worth more than the wealth of your 
kingdom ? " 

But Tantalus bent his head and could not 
answer, for a sudden fear froze his heart. In 


those days, no host would let his guests depart 
without some gift, and a generous man would 
offer them their choice of the treasures in his 
house. Was it possible that the gods would 
choose the gift of his only son, and was that 
why Zeus had reproached him for not setting the 
best he had before the eyes of his guests? Alas, 
he saw plainly that the Immortals took more 
delight in the child's beauty than in all the 
wonders of the golden palace. The haughty 
Hera stooped to kiss his forehead, and the other 
goddesses called him to them one by one and 
said, "Did you ever see such a lovely child?' 1 
just as if they were mortal ladies. One of them, 
who had great grey eyes, and was called Athena, 
lifted him to her shoulder, to look at the golden 
helmet she wore, and laughed because he said he 
wanted one like it, and a shield and spear like 
hers. Then the fairest of them all, whose name 
was Aphrodite, took the little boy upon her lap, 
and whispered coaxingly that she would give him 
better playthings than shields or spears if he 
would come and live with her, in her garden 
of roses that bloomed all the year round. But 
Poseidon, that stern-faced god, who sat beside 
her, shook back his dark hair and said, "O Queen 
of Love, have you not a boy of your own to play 
with ? Come with me, little prince, for I will 
love you with a truer love than this fair goddess, 


and you shall have a gift that will please you 
better than her roses, when you come to be a 


The child looked into Poseidon's eyes, which 
were deep blue like the sea, and felt that he liked 
this friendly god the best of all ; he climbed 
upon his knee, and rested his little head on the 
sea-god's shoulder, and, being already drowsy, 
fell sound asleep. Meanwhile, Tantalus had 
made up his mind what to do, for dearly though 
he loved his son, his pride was stronger than 
his love. It should never be said that he, 
Tantalus the King, sent another king, the King 
of the Sky, who had done him so great an 
honour, away from his feast empty-handed. 
Proudly he raised his head, at last, and met the 
searching glance of Zeus. " Great Lord of the 
Immortals," he said, " if indeed there is aught 
in this poor house of mine to please you, and 
these my other guests, I offer it with a willing 
heart. If indeed I failed to adorn this feast with 
my fairest jewel, it was with no grudging thought, 
for behold, ever-living gods, that jewel is yonder, 
and it is yours if you so choose." So saying, he 
pointed to the sleeping child. Now Zeus knew 
that pride and vainglory alone made Tantalus 
so ready to give up his son, but he would not 
judge him hardly, because he was a mortal man, 
and good and evil were mingled in his heart 


like flowers and weeds in a garden. Therefore 
the god thanked the King in gracious words, 
even as a man might thank his friend. " Royal 
Tantalus," he said, "this land of Lydia may boast 
henceforth that her king is the most generous, as 
well as the richest, in the world. Know, now, 
that when I said you had not offered us your 
best, I spoke to prove you, and to show my 
Queen, and these my children and kinsfolk, how 
nobly you can play the host. Now, my friend, 
we bid you farewell, but we will not take your 
son with us ; it is enough that you have freely 
offered him to the gods, and in recompense for 
that, a year shall not pass before both he and you 
shall sit at our table, even as we have sat this 
night at yours." 

Then once more came a great flash of light, 
and a peal of thunder, and when the dazzled 
mortals could see clearly again, the gods had 
vanished. The King looked hastily towards the 
couch where Poseidon had sat, half-fearing that 
he might have carried off the child, after all. 
But there lay his little son, curled up among the 
embroidered cushions, and smiling in his sleep. 
One small hand held a rosebud Aphrodite had 
given him from her bosom, and in the other lay 
a strange blossom, white as the sea-foam. Posei- 
don also had a garden, and this was one of the 
flowers that grew there, under the waves. 



A YEAR had almost passed since the wonderful 
night when the gods feasted in the house of Tan- 
talus. The story of that banquet was carried far 
and wide, and strangers came from many lands to 
see with their own eyes the king who had enter- 
tained Zeus himself, and hear from his own lips 
how the Immortals had looked, and what they 
had said to him. Tantalus was never tired of 
boasting about it all, and if he was proud before, 
you may fancy that now he was ten times prouder 
and more vainglorious. As he repeated the mar- 
vellous tale to guests at his feasts, surrounded by 
so much splendour, and seated on the throne 
where, as he told them, the King of the gods had 
sat in all his majesty, he began to feel that he 
himself was a sort of Zeus upon earth, and to 
imitate all he could remember of the god's appear- 
ance and behaviour. "Thus spoke Zeus," he 
would say, holding out his own sceptre, and doing 
his best to copy the voice of the heavenly King, 
when he told the story. And at last, as it seemed 
to him that he acted the part of a god exceed- 
ingly well, he did it not only when he described 
the visit of the Immortals, but every day and all 
day long. But he forgot how gracious and how 
gentle those Immortals had shown themselves, 


and only tried to copy their calm, grand looks 
and gestures. So, while he still gave splendid 
feasts to all who came, and sent them away with 
costly gifts, he now received his guests coldly and 
haughtily, as if they were hardly worthy to come 
into his presence. Travellers, when they got 
home again, talked even more about the King's 
pride and his boastful speeches, than about his 
golden house and his marvellous riches. As for 
his own subjects, they never saw him now, except 
driving through the city in a glittering chariot 
drawn by four white horses, while troops of slaves 
ran before him, scattering gold among the crowd, 
and crying, " Make way there for the Great King ! 
Bow down before him, all ye people, and do him 
reverence, for he is the Friend of the Gods, and 
his glory is more than mortal." Tantalus no 
longer sat in the judgment-seat of the kings of 
Lydia, to do justice among his people, and if any 
man were bold enough to go up to the golden 
palace, either the guards would drive him away, 
saying that the King did not choose to be 
troubled by common folk, or they would push 
him roughly into the presence-chamber, where 
Tantalus sat enthroned, stiff and silent, like an 
idol, in gorgeous array. And the stern, cold 
face of the King would so terrify the poor man 
that he would not dare to plead for the boon he 
came seeking. 


So the year went by, hut before it ended, 
rumours came to Tantalus from foreign lands 
that the tales of the travellers about his famous 
banquet were disbelieved by many who heard 
them. People were saying everywhere that he 
had not really feasted the gods at all ; he had 
merely built a most wonderful palace, and then, 
because his guests were always telling him that 
his house and his banquets were fit for the gods, 
his head was turned with those flatteries, till he 
suffered a strange delusion, and thought he had 
given a feast to Zeus himself. Some of the 
travellers now asked him to show them some 
token of the Immortals' visit, which he was 
unable to do, and this made him very angry. 
How he wished that he had thought of asking 
Zeus to leave some sign of his presence which 
no one could doubt ! It was no use, of course, 
to point to his courtiers and his slaves, and say, 
" All these saw the gods as plainly as I did," for 
every one knew what to expect of slaves and 
courtiers. If the King, their master, chose to 
say he had seen the gods, they would not dare 
to contradict him ; nay, if he said he saw them 
with two heads apiece, or no heads at all, they 
would swear they saw the same. These thoughts 
were very unpleasant to Tantalus, and so occupied 
his mind that he forgot the time was at hand 
when he, in turn, was to feast with Zeus. Indeed, 


although at first he had boasted freely about 
going as a guest to the heavenly halls, he had 
never felt quite sure that he would ever get there, 
and as time went on, he came to think of his 
seeing the gods face to face as a wonderful thing 
that could never happen again. If only he could 
convince these impudent travellers that it ever 
had happened ! Now it befell, on the very day 
twelvemonth from the coming of the gods, that 
ambassadors arrived, with gifts from the king of 
a far country, who desired to know the truth of 
the report he had heard, that the King of Lydia 
had given a feast to the Immortals. Tantalus 
received them hospitably, and when evening came, 
they sat with him at the banquet, and he told 
them the whole story. Perhaps some doubts 
about that story had been whispered to them on 
their journey, for as the King told the tale, he 
noted with displeasure that the newcomers looked 
one at another, smiling slily. "Strangers," he 
cried haughtily, "do you dare to mock me? Or 
do you doubt that my tale is true? ' 

" Great King," answered the eldest ambassador, 
" we are simple men, and we fear that you are 
pleased to make sport of us, asking us to take 
your royal dreams for truth. But if this be not 
so, we are sure that Zeus left with you some 
token of his presence at your feast, to be a wit- 
ness to all men of the honour done you. We 



humbly desire to see that token, that we may 
carry word of it to our master, who will then 
believe the wondrous report he has heard." 

Tantalus was nearly beside himself with rage 
at this request, which he felt quite certain had 
been suggested to the ambassadors by some of 
those evil-minded persons who had asked him 
the same thing before, and gone away scoffing. 
But it came into his mind that he would only 
make matters worse if he sent these grave am- 
bassadors away with an angry answer. They 
would spread the story still farther, of his having 
no proof at all to show, and very soon, unless he 
could somehow put a stop to what people said 
about him, he, Tantalus, would become the 
laughing-stock of the world. Then quickly he 
resolved to gain a little time by hiding his rage 
and speaking pleasant words. 

" I see," he said, " that the King, your master, 
has wise and prudent servants. You are very 
right to desire some proof of so great a marvel, 
and you shall have it. But it is already late, and 
you are wearied with your journey. Go now to 
rest, and to-morrow I will show you what you 

The ambassadors bowed deeply, and were led 
to the splendid chambers prepared for them. 
Tantalus remained sitting in the jewelled hall, 
thinking very hard what he was to do. To- 


morrow he meant to put the ambassadors off 
again with some further excuse, and to persuade 
them to stay with him some days longer ; but 
how could he find them a proof, however long 
they stayed ? "I would be alone," he said to 
the slaves who waited his commands, and they 
all withdrew. It was very quiet now in the great 
empty room. The king thought and thought, 
till nearly midnight, but could find no way out 
of his difficulty. Any one else would have called 
upon the gods to help him, but Tantalus was so 
used to thinking himself all-powerful that this 
never entered his head. At last, quite tired out 
with puzzling over the question, he leaned back 
on his throne and fell asleep. How long he slept 
he never knew ; it seemed only a few minutes 
had passed when he was awaked by sounds of 
music, talking, and laughter. He sat up and 
rubbed his eyes in astonishment. There, all 
round him, sat the gods, just as he had seen 
them a year ago that very night ! For one 
moment, he thought they had come back to show 
themselves to those unbelieving ambassadors and 
cover them with shame, but then he saw that he 
was no longer sitting in his own palace-hall. The 
place he had awoke in seemed like a vast temple, 
with walls and ceiling of some wonderful stone 
that shone like pure gold, and yet was transparent 
like glass. All round this hall were rows of tall 


pillars, and every pillar was a single block of ruby, 
sapphire, or emerald, glowing with its own 
coloured fire. There were no windows, and no 
lamps either in the room, which was flooded with 
what Tantalus would have thought was sunshine, 
only he supposed it was still night. Then he 
knew that this was no earthly palace, but the 
dwelling of Zeus, and suddenly he remembered 
the promise of the god. This was the night he 
was to feast with the Immortals and here he 
was ! He wondered if the little Pelops had been 
carried to the sky-palace too, and soon saw the 
child nodding and smiling at him from the couch 
where he sat, as he had done before, between 
Poseidon and the Queen of Love. All the 
Immortals now welcomed Tantalus with friendly 
looks and words of greeting, and one who seemed 
the youngest of the goddesses presented him with 
a shining cup, into which she poured wine the 
colour of dark mountain honey. "Fill all our 
cups to the brim, Hebe, my daughter," said 
Zeus to the beautiful cup-bearer, " and drink, 
every one of you, to this friend of ours, who 
played the host to us so well." 

"To our host, King Tantalus," cried the 
golden-haired Apollo, and the rest, as they drank, 
repeated " To King Tantalus," and then all to- 
gether cried, " Hail, mortal ! Hail, guest of 
Zeus ! Hail, friend of the gods ! " 


Now Tantalus no sooner tasted the drink of 
the gods, which men call nectar, than he was 
filled with such mirth and gladness as he had 
never known, nor any mortal can know, save 
those few who are permitted to share the banquet 
of Zeus. For nectar is brewed with honey from 
celestial flowers and with the juice of apples that 
grow in the Enchanted Isles of the Sunset, and 
they who drink it have perpetual youth and joy. 

So the King forgot in a moment the troubles he 
had left behind on earth, and gave himself up to 
the delights of the heavenly feast. He thought 
he could look for ever at this glorious house of 
Zeus, compared to which his golden palace 
seemed but a mere hovel. Here topaz and 
emerald, and all stones known on earth as pre- 
cious, because they are found only in small pieces, 
were to be seen in blocks as big as the masses of 
marble on his own hillsides. Therefore the gods 
wore no jewels, such as earthly kings are adorned 
with, and as for silver and gold, though their 
houses and furniture seemed to be made of those 
metals, they were not the same silver and gold 
that there is in this world of ours, but so much 
purer and finer that the light shone through them. 
So the hall where the Immortals were feasting 
looked like a temple built out of moonbeams and 
sunbeams, and rainbows, and its sapphire pavement 
like a piece of the sky, which is just what it was. 


The tables in this hall were covered with every 
sort of delicious fruit that grows in all the coun- 
tries of the world, for in the garden of Zeus they 
are all ripe the whole year round. There were 
peaches and grapes, oranges and pomegranates and 
strawberries, and many more sorts that Tantalus had 
never seen before. The King noticed that none of 
the Immortals took any of these fruits from the 
baskets of myrtle-twigs in which they were piled, 
and that clouds of great butterflies were hovering 
over the tables. Now the plates of his neighbours 
seemed always full, but his remained empty, and 
as no one offered him anything he began to think 
the gods were strangely neglecting their guest. 

" You do not understand our customs, friend 
Tantalus," said the merry voice of Hermes in his 
ear. " We offer you nothing, because you have 
only to wish, and your plate will be as full as 
mine." The King looked at a superb bunch of 
grapes which he saw in front of him, but just as 
he wished for it, it disappeared. At the same 
instant a very large purple butterfly settled on 
his plate ; he put out his hand to touch it, and 
it was gone, but in its place there lay the bunch 
of grapes. Then he wished for an orange, and 
the same thing happened, only this time the 
butterfly's wings were golden-red. 

" I do not understand those butterflies," he 
said to Hermes. 


"They are your wishes," said the young god, 
" and if you look, you will see the wishes of my 
companions bringing them whatever they may 
fancy in the same way." 

" This is a strange magic," said the King, who 
now felt quite at his ease with the friendly 
Hermes. " But now I see a number of golden 
bees flying about the tables, which I think must 
be wishes too, for wherever one alights, it vanishes, 
and a round cake the colour of honey appears in 
its place. Tell me, Hermes, if these fruits and 
those small cakes are all your food, for though 
nothing can be more delicious than your fruit, 
I should not care, for my part, to live on figs 
and grapes and honey-bread." 

Hermes, at these words, could not answer for 
laughing, but Athena, that grey-eyed goddess 
who sat on the King's other side, turned her 
grave face to him, and said, " You know not 
what you say, O Tantalus ! That honey-bread, 
as you call it, is the bread of immortality, which 
in the speech of men is called ambrosia, and those 
who eat of it live for ever. Rich and great you 
may be, King of Lydia, but wise you are not, 
or you would know better than to ask if we 
Immortals have such food as pleases your gross 
mortal appetite. An ox roasted whole, perhaps, 
is what you hoped for at my father's table ? " 

Tantalus knew that Athena was the wisest of 


all the gods, except her father Zeus, and he was 
ashamed that she had overheard his thoughtless 

" Lady and Queen," he answered, " forgive what 
I have spoken in my ignorance. How could I 
know that the bread was the divine ambrosia, of 
which men tell but know not what it is like ? " 

" Come, sister," then said Hermes, still laugh- 
ing, "do not be offended with our guest. Re- 
member we do not all despise the food of mortals," 
and Zeus himself has eaten porridge in a peasant's 
hut. Yes, Tantalus, once I travelled on earth 
with Zeus, in the disguise of wandering pedlars, 
that we might see who would show kindness to 
the poor and homeless. And when we had been 
turned away from many a rich man's door, we 
found shelter with two poor old cottagers, who 
gladly shared their humble supper with us out 
of charity. Those worthy old souls, Philemon 
and his wife Baucis, were terrified when we showed 
ourselves in our true shape next morning, but 
they soon had their reward, for Zeus promised 
to grant whatever they should ask." 

" Then I suppose they asked to be made 
King and Queen of that country," said Tantalus, 
" though I cannot say I ever heard of a King 
Philemon or a Queen Baucis." 

"No," replied Hermes, "the only thing they 
wanted was never to be parted, or to leave the 


cottage where they had been so happy together. 
Zeus promised that they never should, and when 
they had ended their lives in peace at the same 
moment, they were changed into two oak trees, 
which are still flourishing where their cottage 

D O 


Tantalus thought to himself, " What a stupid 
old couple ! If I had been in their place, I should 
have asked Zeus for something very different." 
But aloud he only said, " That is a very pretty 
story," not wishing to risk another reproof from 
the severe Athena. 

She, however, seemed ready to make him 
amends for speaking so sternly, and, breaking a 
cake of ambrosia in her snowy hands, she gave 
him half of it, with a gracious look. " You also, 
King," she said, "have earned a reward for your 
hospitality, and this is it. Unlike Philemon and 
Baucis, you already have everything that a man 
can wish for on earth, therefore Zeus wills to 
give you the one gift you have not, the gift of 

Tantalus took the piece of ambrosia, and won- 
dered to feel how light it was. He tasted it, 
and it was like nothing he had ever tasted before, 
and it melted in his mouth like snow. Never 
had food seemed to him so delicious, yet he could 
not tell if it was sweet, or sour, or salt, because 
these are the names of earthly flavours, and the 


flavour of ambrosia is different from any of them. 
Now he saw that Poseidon and Aphrodite gave 
the child Pelops fruit to eat and nectar to drink, 
but they did not give him ambrosia, and he 
wished that Pelops also should eat this bread of 

" Will not the gods give ambrosia to my son," 
he asked Athena, rather timidly, " that he too 
may live for ever ? " 

But the wise goddess shook her head. " We 
may not give it to a child," she said, "and I 
will tell you the reason. When we have once 
given a gift, we have no power to take it back 
again. So it would be cruel to give the gift of 
immortality to any one who was not old enough 
to choose whether he will live for ever, or die, 
like other men, when his time comes." 

" Surely," said the King," " there is no one 
who would not choose to live for ever." 

" Ah, Tantalus," said Athena, and a strange 
look of pity came into her grey eyes, " you think 
so now, because you have never known pain or 
sorrow. But how would it be if your life were 
full of misery instead of happiness ? Think what 
it would mean to you then, to know you could 
not die. Beware, moreover, that you presume not 
to give our gift to others, for that were deadly sin." 

These words, which he was to remember when 
too late, gave the King a vague feeling of dread, 


as if some unknown evil was about to befall him, 
and he was glad that Hebe at this moment filled 
his cup with nectar, and Apollo took his lyre 
and sang a joyous song. 

When this was ended, Zeus called him to his 
side, and said : " Now, Tantalus, I, who was your 
guest, have given you feast for feast, and since 
you gave me your best, I have granted you the 
highest reward a mortal can have. Henceforth 
you need not fear death, and so long as you 
deserve to be the friend of the gods, you shall 
drink with us the sacred nectar which continually 
renews our youth and gladness." 

" And yet, O King of us all," said Hera, with 
her scornful smile, " I think that this our guest 
desires a certain gift so much that he would 
prefer it to nectar and ambrosia." 

" Let him name it, Lady of my heart," an- 
swered Zeus, " for we will not have him depart 
with any desire unsatisfied." 

" I can name it," Hera said, tossing her queenly 
head. " It is Fame, and were I a mortal, I would 
seek it through the world, as all those heroes do 
who are my favourites among men." 

" That I can well believe," replied Zeus gravely, 
" but now let our friend speak for himself. How 
say you, Tantalus ? Have you not fame enough 
already, being known for the richest and most 
hospitable king in all the world ? " 


Now the words of Hera had reminded Tantalus 
that his fame among men was in danger from the 
evil-speaking of the people who would not be- 
lieve he had feasted the gods. 

" Great Zeus," he said, " I cannot thank you 
enough for the wonderful reward you have given 
me this night. But since you bid me, I will dare 
to confess that there is one thing wanting to make 
me entirely happy." 

Then he told how the great honour the gods 
had done him by coming to his banquet was not 
believed by any one, and how that very night the 
ambassadors from a far country had asked for a 
proof of the story. And he prayed Zeus to grant 
him some token, which these men might see and 
believe. He heard the god answer, " When you 
awake, O Tantalus, you shall find such a token 
beside you," and then a rosy mist began to float 
before his eyes. He could just see that Hermes 
stood beside him, slowly waving his wand, then 
his eyes closed, and he knew no more. 


WHEN King Tantalus awoke, he found himself 
once more in his own banqueting-hall, which was 
now bright with the morning sunshine. His first 
thought was, " I have only dreamed a dream," 


and he felt bitterly disappointed, for what could 
he now say to the ambassadors, and where was 
the token he had hoped to show them ? But he 
saw on the table beside him a golden cup and 
platter, which he thought the slaves must have 
set there while he slept, and being hungry and 
thirsty, he ate and drank the bread and the wine 
that were in them ; and at the first taste, he knew 
that the bread was ambrosia, and the wine, nectar. 
"Then it was no dream, after all," he said to 
himself, "for this is the token Zeus promised. 
Yet, what am I to do with it, for Athena warned 
me that I must not give the god's gift to any one 
else, and if I tell those men that these are ambrosia 
and nectar, they will not believe unless they taste 
for themselves." So thinking, he lifted the cup 
to drink again of that delicious wine, and behold, 
the cup was full to the brim, as it was before ! 
Then he looked at the platter, and saw that the 
cake, from which he had broken a piece, was whole 
again. Once more he drank, and broke another 
piece from the cake, and immediately the cup was 
full again, and the cake lay whole in the platter. 
Then he rejoiced greatly, for he knew that this 
wonder would assuredly overcome all the doubts 
of the ambassadors, and of all others who should 
see him eat and drink before them out of a cup 
and platter that never grew empty. 

But now he heard sounds of weeping and 


wailing from the inner chambers of the palace, 
where the Queen and her children lived, and he 
clapped his hands loudly to summon his slaves. 
" What is this weeping I hear ? " he asked them, 
when they entered, and they told him, " It is the 
Queen and her women, O King, weeping because 
at dawn they saw that the little prince was gone 
from his bed-chamber, and we have searched the 
palace from end to end, but he is nowhere to be 
found." This they said trembling, for they feared 
the King would fall into a rage, and order them 
to be put to death if they did not instantly find 
the child, and they were astonished when he 
answered, without grief or anger, "It is well. 
Search no more, for I know what is become of 
my son/' Then he went to the Queen's chamber, 
and she cried to him, with tears, " Alas, my lord, 
what can have befallen our child? I saw him 
sleeping safe and sound before I went to rest, and 
as I slept, I dreamed that a tall, kingly stranger, 
with long black locks, stood at my bedside, hold- 
ing the boy in his arms, and they smiled on me, 
and were gone. At that I woke, fearing I knew 
not what, and ran to the next chamber, and woe 
is me, the child's bed was empty." 

"Lady wife," said Tantalus, "I know where 
Pelops is, and, trust me, no evil can befall him 
there. The stranger you saw in your dream was 
the great Poseidon, who loves the boy, and has 


taken him to the heavenly halls. Did I not tell 
you how I offered our son to the gods when they 
feasted with me, and how they promised that he 
and I should be their guests ? They have fulfilled 
that promise, and now I have seen the palace of 
Zeus, I am well content that Pelops should abide 
there for a time. Doubt not that he will be re- 
stored to us ere long, for I must tell you that the 
Immortals have made me their chosen friend and 
boon companion, and loaded me with such proofs 
of favour that I am certain they will refuse me 
nothing I desire." 

Now the Queen was a meek and gentle lady, 
who held her lord for the most wonderful of 
men, and thought it not strange that even the 
gods were glad to have him for a friend, but she 
loved her little son so dearly that she was only 
half comforted to hear where he was, since she 
was never happy when he was out of her sight. 

But the King did not stay to cheer her, or to 
tell her more ; he was in haste to prepare for his 
triumph, when the unbelieving ambassadors should 
see the token they had asked for. He ordered 
that all should be made ready for the mid-day 
banquet, and the tables spread as usual with the 
choicest fare, but that all the dishes and vessels set 
on his own table should be empty ; then, when he 
took his seat upon the throne, he placed among 
them the cup of nectar and the platter of ambrosia, 


and bade the slaves call the ambassadors to the 
feast. And this was to Tantalus the proudest 
and the happiest moment of his life, for his guests 
were even more astonished than he had hoped 
when he showed them the food and drink of the 
gods, and poured nectar from the celestial cup 
into the flagons and goblets on his table till all 
were filled, and heaped all the dishes with frag- 
ments of the cake of ambrosia, which grew no 
smaller, however often he broke it. They cried 
out that now indeed they could doubt no longer, 
and the King their master should hear, when they 
came home, that the gods had not only visited 
Tantalus of Lydia, but had bestowed on him the 
most marvellous gifts ever given to mortal man. 
On the morrow they departed for their own land, 
and spread the news upon their way, that Tan- 
talus, after all, told a true tale, and could show 
the proof of it, for he had a never-failing portion 
of the bread and wine of the Immortals. 

After this, King Tantalus for some time 
thought himself the happiest of men, being no 
longer troubled by the doubts or questions of 
travellers, who were now welcome to him again 
because he enjoyed displaying his wonderful cup 
and platter, to satisfy them. He did not forget 
Athena's warning, and was careful to keep the 
nectar and ambrosia for himself alone, telling all 
his guests that he was forbidden to share those 


gifts with any one. Meanwhile, the child Pelops 
was seen no more, and strange stories of his 
disappearance began to be whispered abroad, but 
they did not come to the King's ears, for none 
dared repeat them to him. It was even said that 
Tantalus, who boasted how he had offered his 
son to the gods, and now declared the boy was 
dwelling with them above, had really slain him in 
secret for a sacrifice, to please the Immortals, and 
win from them that reward of nectar and ambrosia. 
But this story came from among the lowest of 
the folk, who knew not that such a deed, if 
Tantalus had ever so much as dreamed of doing 
it, would have made him utterly hateful in the 
sight of the gods. 

Now while the King was happy, the Queen, his 
wife, pined day by day for the Joss of Pelops ; she 
had one other child, a daughter named Niobe, but 
Pelops was far dearer to her because of his loving 
ways, and now her only comfort was that she 
dreamed of him every night, and always saw him 
radiant with joy. The Princess Niobe, who was 
some years older than her brother, was a haughty 
damsel and cold-hearted, and the gentle Queen 
had long feared her daughter's pride would bring 
unhappiness upon her. But Tantalus thought 
the maiden could not be too proud, being the 
daughter of such a king as he, and loved her all 
the better for showing a spirit so like his own. 



The time now came for her to be wedded to the 
king of a neighbouring land, and the golden 
palace was thronged by countless multitudes from 
far and near, who were bidden to the marriage 
rejoicings. Guests of every degree were feasted 
by thousands for a whole month before the wed- 
ding, for the King had sent heralds and messen- 
gers a three months' journey east, west, south, 
and north proclaiming everywhere that all were 
welcome to this great festival. Then, on the 
marriage day, having poured forth in abundance 
the treasures of his kingdom on all who came, 
and filled their eyes with the sight of such royal 
splendour as the world never saw before or since, 
Tantalus held the crowning feast of all in his hall 
of roses ; and in the fulness of his glory, his fate, 
the fate his proud heart brought upon him, was 
sealed at last. In that hour he felt it was no 
longer enough for him to be the greatest king 
in the world, and the acknowledged friend and 
favourite of the gods ; no, he would be something 
greater still : he, though a man, would wield the 
power and receive the honours of a god, for he 
would bestow on the men around him the greatest 
gifts that Zeus himself could give them. He 
would make them immortal, and he too would 
know what it was to be adored, to have temples 
and altars raised to his name by grateful worship- 
pers, because he had delivered them from the fear 


of death. And so he would not merely live for 
ever, but through all eternity he would enjoy 
unheard of fame and glory as the giver of ever- 
lasting life to such as pleased him. These 
thoughts no sooner flashed through his brain, 
than he commanded jars and baskets of gold to 
be brought to his table, and began to fill them 
with the nectar and ambrosia which stood before 
him, saying with a loud voice : " Set this food 
and wine of the gods before the bridegroom and 
the bride, and before each of the guests, that they 
may eat and drink thereof, and live for ever, by 
the grace of Tantalus." At these words all the 
guests raised a great shout of joy, and bowed 
down before his throne, praising and blessing him 
for that boon. But even as the slaves poured 
out the nectar the light of noonday was blotted 
out by so thick a darkness that no man in the 
hall could see his hand before his face. A sudden 
wind blew deathly cold through the blackness, 
and after the wind came a hollow groaning sound 
from deep within the earth. Stricken dumb with 
terror, all the banqueters sat motionless in the 
pitchy gloom for moments that seemed hours, till 
that sound came again, louder and deeper, and 
they felt the solid ground rock under their feet 
and heard a crash as of falling pillars. Then, 
with one cry of despair, all at once they started 
up, and rushed towards the doorway, groping 


blindly to find it, and struggling forward through 
the dense, invisible throng around them. None 
of that multitude could ever tell how he reached 
the courtyard, and fled still onward through the 
darkness, not knowing whither, till he found 
himself at last on the mountain slopes outside 
the palace ; but there, when the darkened sun 
shone out again, stood one vast crowd of men, 
women, children, animals, trembling but unhurt. 
Every living thing the palace held escaped from 
the earthquake save only the King himself, who 
was nowhere to be seen. As the darkness lifted, 
all eyes were turned anxiously towards the Golden 
House. Great rents were seen in its shining 
walls, and of its hundred towers there were but 
ten left standing ; no fountains played now in 
the marble courts, and beyond the shattered pillars 
of its porch the banqueting hall seemed a mound 
of glittering ruins. The Princess Niobe entreated 
her newly-wedded lord to go back and seek for 
her father, and he would have done so, but at 
that moment the earth shook with a yet louder 
roar, the crags around tottered, and all that 
remained of the palace sank before their eyes 
into the mountain. At that sight the whole 
multitude fled down the hillsides to the city in 
the plain, not daring once to look behind. For 
many days clouds hung low on the sides of the 
mountain, while all the folk in the city wept and 


prayed and fasted, and many took flight into the 
country, fearing lest the hill itself should fall and 
overwhelm them. And when the clouds cleared 
away, the rocky peak where the Golden House 
had stood was seen to be cleft in twain ; and 
some who were bold enough at last to climb 


thither brought back word that between those 
two jagged summits lay a deep ravine, covered 
with great splintered stones and overhung by 
towering precipices. No sign of life, nor trace of 
the palace could they see, and it was now plain 
to all that Tantalus had perished. 

The king who had wedded Niobe then took 
her a\vay to his own land, and would have taken 
her mother also, but the Queen would not leave 
the old palace in the city, where she had lived 
more happily than in the Golden House, before 
her husband gave way to that sinful pride which 
proved his bane. She bade farewell to her daughter 
with many tears, and that night, as she entered 
her chamber, she said : " I am indeed left deso- 
late. Cruel are the gods, for they have destroyed 
Tantalus, my lord ; and how do I know what 
evil they have wrought to my darling son, 
whom they have kept from me so long ? All 
else I would bear if only I might see my child 

But scarcely had she said this when she gave a 
cry of joy, for she saw Pelops lying asleep upon 


her bed. He awoke and sprang into her arms, 
and told her how glad he was to be with her again, 
although he had spent such a happy day with 
Poseidon, and pelted him with roses in Aphrodite's 
garden, which was even lovelier than she had said. 
" Last night," he said, " after Poseidon carried 
me to the house of Zeus, I saw my father there 
at the feast ; but to-day, when I was tired of play, 
I asked where he was, and Poseidon said he was 
gone back to earth, and I must go back too. 
Then he kissed me, and I fell asleep, so I think 
he must have brought me home without my 
knowing." Then his mother knew that the 
months which had gone by since the child was 
carried off by the god had passed in heaven as one 
day, and she kept silence, fearing to tell him the 
strange and terrible end of the King, his father. 
And for a while all knowledge of what had be- 
fallen was kept from the little prince in spite of 
his asking continually where the King was, and 
why they were not living in the Golden House. 
But at last Zeus showed himself to the Queen in 
a dream by night, and bade her tell Pelops all the 
story of his father's pride and how he had des- 
pised the warning not to give any one else the 
gift with which the gods had trusted him. " Had 
Tantalus obeyed us," said the heavenly vision, 
" we should have kept his son among us till he 
was old enough to receive that same gift himself; 


but now it is part of the King's punishment to 
know that the child has lost immortality through 
his father's sin." 


As Pelops grew up to manhood, all said of him 
that he was grave and thoughtful beyond his 
years, and in truth the story his mother had told 
him was ever in his mind, nor could he take 
pleasure in the pastimes of his comrades for 
thinking of his lost father. No one in the city 
would willingly set foot now upon the mountain, 
for the people believed that the place where the 
Golden House had stood was accursed ground, 
and neither hunter nor shepherd ever visited 
those hillsides, once so often climbed by the 
guests of Tantalus. But Pelops had often said 
to the Queen, " My father, who had eaten the 
bread of immortality, cannot be dead, and when I 
become a man, I will go up the mountain and 
look for him in that valley among the cliffs, for 
something tells me he is there." And though 
his mother besought him not to venture to that 
fearful place in the vain hope of finding one 
whom the gods had assuredly hidden from them 
for ever, the young prince held steadfastly to that 
purpose. At last, on a day that he went hunting, 


the chase brought him and his companions to the 
foot of the mountain, and all the rest turned 
back, but he called to them that he would not 
lose the hart they followed for an idle fear, and 
went on alone. It was noon when he left them, 
but the sun was already low in the west when he 
stood among the rocks on the mountain top and 
gazed with a beating heart into the crag-walled 
hollow between the peaks. What was it he saw, 
or thought he saw yonder, at the far end of the 
ravine ? A great fragment of rock, loosened 
from the face of the precipice, seemed toppling 
forward as though it must fall in another instant, 
and close under it sat a dim, kingly figure, with 
upturned face, holding both arms above his head 
to ward off the coming blow. Pelops ran for- 
ward, shouting to him to rise and fly, or the 
rock would crush him to death, and calling him 
"Father," for he knew it must be Tantalus, 
though he could not clearly see his face across 
the valley. But the figure did not stir, and 
suddenly the trembling mass above him was still. 
Then, hurrying nearer, Pelops could see that it 
was indeed Tantalus who sat there, robed and 
crowned as of old, and that a golden table stood 
beside him, with a shining cup and platter upon 
it. The King's form was so worn and wasted 
that he was more like a shadow than a living 
man, and his son's heart grew chill with fear as 


he looked into his eyes, for they seemed not to 
see him, nor did Tantalus give the least sign that 
he heard his eager, pleading words. In sorrowful 
bewilderment, Pelops saw him snatch up the cup, 
which was brimful of honey-coloured wine, and 
put it to his lips ; no sooner did it touch them 
than the cup was empty, and he set it down with 
a despairing sigh. Then he broke a morsel from 
the cake that was on the platter, and would 
have eaten it, but it vanished in his hand. The 
young prince could not bear the sight ; he sprang 
towards his father that he might take him in his 
arms and bring him away from the dreadful spot, 
where he had so long suffered these strange tor- 
ments. But instantly a thick white mist from 
the heights above rolled down like a curtain 
between him and the King, and a voice came 
from behind the cloud, " Depart hence, O Pelops, 
for you cannot deliver this prisoner of the gods. 
As Tantalus has sown, so must he also reap, till 
the time is fulfilled." 

Slowly and sadly Pelops went out of the glen ; 
he turned at the entrance and looked back, and 
once more the King was sitting with upturned 
face, raising his arms towards the overhanging 
rock that trembled as before. 

Pelops told no one what he had seen ; but in 
after years, when people began to forget their 
fear of that mountain, it chanced more than once 


that herdsmen on the hill went into the glen of 
rocks and were affrighted by the same sight. So 
the spot was held in dread for many ages, and 
men told that it was haunted by the spectre of 
Tantalus, a king, whom the gods had doomed 
for his pride to a threefold punishment endless 
thirst, endless hunger, and endless terror of a 
rock that seemed ever falling, but never fell. 
And because Tantalus was for ever tormented 
by the vanishing of the nectar and ambrosia when 
they touched his lips, people say to this day that a 
man is tantalised, when they mean that he sees some- 
thing he longs for very near him, and cannot get it. 
Now the land of Lydia became hateful to 
Pelops, after he learned the fate of his father, 
and he resolved to make his home in some other 
country, where the sight of that lonely mountain 
top, whence he could not deliver the prisoner of 
the gods, would grieve his eyes no more. At 
this time, travellers from beyond the sea brought 
tales of strange doings at a city called Pisa, which 
lay in the far land of Greece. The King of Pisa, 
they said, had an only child, a maiden of sur- 
passing beauty, and many princes sought her in 
marriage, but all her suitors had perished miser- 
ably for this reason. King Oenomaus, her 
father, had promised the maiden to whoever 
could outstrip him in a chariot-race, but if he, 
the King, could overtake the other chariot, the 


suitor must die by his spear. Thirteen princes, 
one after another, had already dared the perilous 
race, and always, although Oenomaus gave them 
a start of six furlongs, he overtook them with his 
peerless horses, and struck them dead with a 
well-aimed spear-throw. Pelops no sooner heard 
all this, than he said to himself, "That is the 
adventure for me," and he took farewell of the 
Queen his mother, saying that he desired to seek 
his fortune across the sea, where men would not 
know him for the son of the hapless Tantalus. 
The Queen was willing he should go, for she 
had seen that he was restless and unhappy ; but 
she said, "Take companions with you, and slaves 
of our household, and let a ship be loaded with 
treasure, and good store of all things needful, 
that you may appear as befits a king's son, in the 
land whither you sail." 

" Not so, my mother," answered Pelops ; " I 
am bound on a certain quest I hear spoken of, 
and neither treasure nor following will serve me 
to win it. I go alone, but when I come to the 
seashore, I am in hopes to find a friend there, who 
will give me what help I need." 

So Pelops journeyed alone for three days and 
three nights, and came to the sea one morning 
very early, before the sun was up. There, stand- 
ing on the solitary shore, in the faint light of 
dawn, he called aloud the name of Poseidon. 


Immediately the calm deep was troubled, a long 
foam-crested billow came rolling shoreward, and 
broke at his feet in clouds of spray, and out of 
that wave the tall Poseidon rose up before him. 
"Earth-shaking God," said Pelops, " if you have 
not forgotten the joy we had once together in 
Aphrodite's garden, now grant to me a boon, for 
the sake of those pleasant hours." 

"Ask what you will," answered Poseidon, 
" for I am no forgetful friend." 

Then Pelops told his desire to race with the 
King of Pisa for the prize of his daughter's hand, 
and his fear that he would nowhere be able to 
find such fleet horses as the King's. " For I 
hear," he said, "that this King Oenomaus has a 
wonderful breed of horses from the far North, 
and some say he had them in a gift from Ares, 
the Lord of War, whom he honours above all 
other gods. Now therefore, O Poseidon, send 
me quickly over the sea by your divine power, 
and give me two coursers swifter than any earthly 
steeds, to win me the victory." 

Poseidon turned, and struck the water with his 
trident ; then he said, " Look seaward, Pelops," 
and the youth beheld two white crests tossing far 
out at sea, like the crests of waves plunging 
toward the land. But as they neared the shore, 
he saw they were the flying manes of two white 
horses, which drew a golden chariot without a 


driver, and flew like the wind over the grey 
waters, till they halted at his side. At Poseidon's 
bidding, he mounted the chariot and took the 
reins, and forthwith those immortal horses bore 
him so swiftly out to sea, that the shore was 
already dim in the distance before he could look 
back to speak his thanks to the god. Soon the 
speed of his going and the rushing sound of the 
waves lulled him into drowsiness, nor did he fully 
awake till the golden car stood still, and he found 
himself on land once more. The first wayfarer 
he met told him that this was the country of 
King Oenomaus, and before sunset he came to 
Pisa, a little city built upon a hill. 

King Oenomaus was glad at the coming of 
this handsome stranger, who proclaimed himself 
a suitor for the hand of the Princess, for he 
made sure of overtaking and slaying him as he 
had done the rest. " There is another wooer 
come to try his fortune," he told his daughter, 
" a king's son, by the look of him, with goodly 
white horses, and a chariot gay with gold. To- 
morrow you shall ride in it, and see him fall at 
your side, like the others. That will be good 
sport, and those white horses will be the best of 
all my spoil from the fools who have raced with 
me." Next morning, the King brought his guest 
on foot to a broad and level valley near the city, 
and slaves followed them, leading their chariots. 


Pelops saw that a tall maiden, wearing the veil 
of a bride, stood in his own car and held the 
reins. When they came to the place ap- 
pointed, Oenomaus said, " It is my custom to 
set Hippodameia, my daughter, in the car of 
him who races here to win her, that he may 
carry off the prize, if he can. Drive forward 
now, king's son, for I wait till you have gone 
six furlongs, but woe betide you if your horses 
are overtaken by those mares of mine, that came 
from the stalls of Ares, the War-god." 

" Let me first see the face of this maiden," 
said Pelops, " since I have good hope to make 
her my bride this day." 

"Throw back your veil, girl," said the King, 
and he laughed a cruel laugh ; " let your suitor 
look on you while he may." 

The Princess lifted her veil, and looked Pelops 
straight in the eyes ; now her fierce father had 
reared her like a young warrior, till she could 
rein in the wildest horses, and see blood shed 
without flinching, nor had she ever known pity, 
but had taken delight in the deaths of those 
thirteen strangers who came seeking to carry 
her away as a bride. Yet as she looked at this 
beautiful youth, she wished, on a sudden, that 
she might not see him slain like those others, 
and at the strangeness of so wishing, she blushed 
and drew down her veil. Then Pelops looked 


well to the harness of the white horses, and took 
his stand beside her, and drove them onward 
along the valley. They had not passed far 
beyond the stone that marked six furlongs from 
the starting-place when they heard the King's 
chariot thundering behind them, but his won- 
drous mares were no match for the steeds of 
Poseidon, and soon Oenomaus saw that the race 
was lost. With a cry of rage, he leaned forward 
and hurled his spear at Pelops ; so mightily he 
threw that the spear-point struck the side of the 
golden car, and would have pierced it, had it not 
been of heavenly metal. But in the doing of 
that treacherous deed, the King ended his life 
of wickedness ; as he cast the spear with his full 
force, he over-balanced himself, and fell head- 
long from the chariot and broke his neck. 

Thus, by Poseidon's help, Pelops gained a 
bride and a kingdom, for he reigned at Pisa in 
the stead of Oenomaus. He built the god an 
altar in the valley of the chariot-race, and held 
a yearly feast there in his honour, with sacrifices 
and rejoicings, on the day of the victory. Also 
he ordained a race of chariots to be run at the 
festival, for prizes of golden vessels and costly 
armour, and in the after time the princes of all 
lands contended in that race, so glorious was the 
fame of it. But never came such horses thither 
as the white steeds of Poseidon, which were seen 


no more from the day when Pelops died in a 
good old age, but vanished out of their stalls 
that same hour. 

Now as for the Princess Hippodameia, she 
mourned but little for her father, whom she 
had rather feared than loved, and lived in all 
happiness with her wedded lord, forgetting the 
wild and warlike life of her youth. The sons 
who were born to her became mighty warriors, 
who won lands and cities by the sword, and their 
children fulfilled the promise of the gods to 
Tantalus concerning the glory that should come 
upon his house. For these were they who led 
a host out of all Greece to that siege of Troy 
town, which the poets of ancient ages made 
into the finest story in the world. 

Here ends this tale ; yet let it be told what 
befell when Pelops had sent for the Queen his 
mother to dwell with him at Pisa, who, because 
he would not return to the land of Lydia, had 
given to Niobe the kingdom of their father. 
There the daughter of Tantalus reigned and 
prospered many years, but, even as he had done, 
she provoked the wrath of the Immortals, 
through exceeding pride. For she had seven 
sons and seven daughters, incomparably beautiful, 
and she boasted that she had borne fairer children 
than any of the goddesses. This boast was heard 
in heaven by the divine mother of Apollo, who 


appeared to Niobe in the guise of an old woman, 
and bade her take back her words, lest the Archer- 
god and Artemis, his sister, should avenge the 
slight offered to their mother Leto. " Away, 
prating hag," answered the Queen, " or I will 
have you scourged from my doors for this 
insolence. Shall Leto, who has but the two 
children, be named equal to Niobe, the mother 
of twice seven ? " 

Forthwith the old woman vanished, and a cry 
was heard from the garden where the children 
were at play. "The arrows! The arrows! O 
mother, save us ! " The Queen flew to the place, 
only to see her young sons and daughters fall one 
by one at her feet, pierced to the heart by the 
arrows of invisible archers. None escaped those 
shafts save the youngest of all, a little maid, 
whom Niobe shielded in her arms, and she, 
who lived to be a woman, was ever after pale 
as marble from the terror of that hour. 

Now there was a saying in those days that 
mortals whom the gods loved, died young, being 
delivered from all the toils of life, and the 
miseries of feeble age ; moreover, it was counted 
a happy fate to die by the swift painless arrows 
that Apollo and Artemis shot from their silver 
bows. Let no one think, then, that Queen 
Niobe's innocent children were punished for their 
mother's pride; she, not they, suffered, and even 



to her the Immortals were not unmerciful. Day 
and night she wept by the children's tomb, 
refusing to be comforted, till at last the gods 
in pity turned her to a rock, in the semblance 
of a woman, and her tears to a spring of water 
that trickles for ever down its face, and there 
it is unto this day. 

ri, Florence. 

NlOliK SlIIKUMNtl HER D.U't , 1 1 II . I;. 



HERA, Queen of the gods, had stately shrines 
in many cities, but the one she loved best 
was her great and ancient temple near the rich 
city of Argos. For the folk of Argos honoured 
her above all the gods, with sacrifices and solemn 
feasts, as Lady of the land, and men called them 
the people of Hera. Now there was once a king 
in Argos who had three daughters, and they were 
the proudest princesses ever seen. Every year in 
the spring time all the maidens of the land, crowned 
with flowers and decked in their best array, went 
in procession to Hera's temple to offer her gifts 
and garlands and a veil broidered with lilies, in 
remembrance of her bridal with King Zeus. 
Then the priestess would cover the image of 
the goddess with the shining veil, and crown it 
with a wreath of scarlet pomegranate blossom, 
and it was borne in state to the city on a car 
drawn by white oxen, while all the people came 
forth to meet it with great rejoicing, and choirs 
of youths and maidens chanted wedding hymns 
in honour of Hera the Bride. The three 


daughters of the King went every year to the 
temple with the other maidens, but in their 
pride of heart they could not endure to see the 
splendid pomp of that procession, and hear the 
praises of the goddess, while they themselves 
walked unnoticed in the throng ; and they said 
one to another, " Are not we as fair and as royal 
as this Bride of Zeus ? Nay, who knows if 
Hera's beauty be so great, after all, for who 
has seen her ? But if that ancient image is 
her true likeness, the gods have an ugly queen 
indeed." So at last they would not go to the 
temple on the festival day, but sat at home, and 
when the image was borne past the palace they 
looked down from a window and mocked it 
aloud, saying, " What ancient dame have you 
there, good people ? Since when do grand- 
mothers masquerade as brides ? " The people 
trembled at these impious words, and the 
priestess cried aloud to the King to rebuke his 
daughters, but he laughed and answered heed- 
lessly, "Let Hera rebuke them if their words 
displease her." Then said the priestess, " Both 
you and they, O King, shall learn that it is no 
light thing to insult our divine Lady." With 
that she bade the drivers of the oxen turn them 
back to the temple, and the people went in 
silence to their homes. 

That very night Hera sent a frenzy upon the 


three princesses, and they rushed in madness out 
of the city and roamed with strange cries among 
the fields. Their father went in search of them 
with the first light, but they knew him not, and 
fled away, shrieking, to the hills above the city. 
There they wandered for many days, and none 
could come near them, for when any approached, 
they bounded away like things possessed, and 
swifter than flying deer. Then the King in his 
despair sent messengers everywhere to offer great 
rewards to whoever would heal his daughters of 
their madness, and there came to him a seer out 
of the West country, whose name was Melampus. 
He was the son of a king, and he became a seer 
in this way. One day that he hunted in the 
woods he lay down to rest, being wearied, and 
fell asleep, and while he slept two young snakes 
crept out from their hole and licked his eyes and 
ears with their soft, forked tongues. Melampus 
awoke, and heard one snake say to the other, 
" This is the man who spared our lives when his 
servants found our nest last spring and slew our 
mother." With that they glided away, and then, 
lying still in deep amaze, he heard the birds also 
talking together, and understood all they said. 
Thus he became a seer, and a great physician as 
well, for his eyes were opened to see visions, and 
his ears to hear all that the wild creatures tell 
each other about the healing virtues of herbs and 


flowers and springs of water. Melampus told 
the King of Argos that he would heal his daugh- 
ters for a price, but when the King asked what it 
was, he answered, " The half of your kingdom." 
This the King would not grant, and he sent him 
away. But soon the same madness came also 
upon the women of the land, so that they too 
fled out of their homes and wandered distracted 
about the hills. Then the people, who had 
heard what the seer had demanded, earnestly 
besought the King to send after Melampus, and 
give him anything he asked to take away this 
plague from them. So Melampus was brought 
back, and the King offered him half the kingdom. 
But now the seer said that he would do nothing 
unless the King would give him two-thirds of the 
land. Even this the King was constrained to 
grant, lest the people should rise against him if 
he did not find means to rid them of the wrath 
of Hera, which his daughters had brought upon 
their wives and children. And the seer took men 
with him to the hills, and made them drive the 
herd of women gently before them towards a 
certain stream, and as they passed through its 
waters in flight from their pursuers they were 
healed of their madness, the three princesses 
with the rest. Thus Melampus became king 
over two-thirds of the land of Argos ; one-third 
he kept himself, and gave one-third to Bias, his 


brother. But the three proud princesses, because 
they had despised Hera the Bride, never became 
brides themselves, and their father likewise came 
to no good end, because he had laughed instead 
of reproving them. 

Melampus and Bias loved each other well, 
and reigned in peace for many years, but after 
their death their sons and grandsons began to be 
at feud about the kingdom, each desiring to 
make himself lord of all Argos. At last, when 
the Prince Adrastus, grandson of Bias, reigned 
in his father's stead, he took to himself the in- 
heritance of the grandson of Melampus, who was 
yet a child, pretending that he would hold it in 
trust for his young kinsman. Also he took the 
child away from the servants who had the care of 
him (for his father and mother were dead), and 
brought him up in his own palace, and forbade 
his own servants on pain of death to let him 
learn that he was a king's son. So this little 
prince, who was called Amphiaraus, grew up in 
the house of Adrastus, and none dared tell him 
that he had a right to half the kingdom. He 
had for playmate a beautiful little girl, Eriphyle 
by name, who was the younger sister of Adrastus, 
and he came to love her very dearly, in spite of 
one great fault that she had she was the most 
covetous little maiden that ever lived. She could 
not see her playfellow with a flower, or a fruit, or 


a toy, without wanting to have it, and very often 
she got it, for she could coax very prettily, and if 
that did not do, the tears would come into her 
sweet dark eyes, and her rosebud of a mouth 
would quiver so piteously that he somehow felt 
himself a cruel little wretch, and begged her to 
take it. As she grew older her one delight was 
in jewels and golden trinkets, and though King 
Adrastus was for ever giving her such things, she 
could never have enough, but hoarded them 
away, and began to think of how she could get 
more. Sometimes she would pretend that she 
had lost a ring or a bracelet, and fret over it for 
days, till she was promised another like it, and 
then, when the new one was made, she would say 
that the gold was not so fine, or the gems not so 
large, as the old. Then the King, who doated 
on his young sister, would make her amends with 
some other costly gift besides, so that her hoard 
of treasures grew from day to day. But at last 
she did really lose one of her jewels ; it was an 
earring curiously wrought, and hung with a 
pear-shaped pearl, and there were no such ear- 
rings in all the land of Greece as this and its 
fellow, which a trader from across the sea had 
brought to Argos out of the East. Therefore 
the Princess Eriphyle could not be comforted 
with any gift for the loss of it, and great search 
was made in all the house, and in the King's 


orchard and garden, but it could not be found. 
Amphiaraus searched with the rest, and could 
not bear to see the grief of the pretty princess. 
He sought to comfort her as best he could, and 
entreated her not to grieve, saying, " The earring 
will surely be found some day, and meanwhile 
have you not hundreds of other jewels ? Do 
not vex yourself, Eriphyle, and spoil your dear 
eyes with weeping, or you will break my heart." 

" Oh," she cried, " what a false boy this is ! 
He would have me think he loves me, when 
he will not do the least little thing for my sake." 

" I know not what you mean," he answered, 
bewildered. " What is there I would not do to 
please you ? " 

" If you loved me truly," she said, "you would 
never rest day or night till you brought me my 
earring, my lovely pearl earring that I prize so 
dearly, or else the match of it." 

" One of those things I will do," said Amphi- 
araus, " and I will see your face no more till I 
have done it." And he went out of the chamber 
where she sat crying and scolding her women. 
But when he had once more searched high and 
low in vain, he said to himself that since he 
certainly could never find that earring, the thing 
he must do was to find another like it somewhere 
in the world. He waited till nightfall, lest any 
one should see and hinder his going ; then he 


took a cloak and a staff and put on sandals, and 
stole out of the King's house, and out of the 
city gate from which the road led to the nearest 
harbour-town. For he thought that there he 
might find some ship bound for the lands of the 
East, where only in the world craftsmen made 
earrings like the Princess Eriphyle's. It was a 
summer's night, and the clear heaven shone thick 
with stars, like bright kind eyes looking down 
upon his lonely way. About a league from the 
city, the road was bordered on one side by a 
wood of olives, and the young prince turned aside 
to rest there till morning light. He saw among 
the trees what seemed the pillared porch of a 
house, and went towards it, to seek a lodging for 
the night, but coming nearer, he saw that it was 
a roofless shrine, empty and half in ruins. Only 
a low stone altar, such as men built upon the 
graves of the dead, was to be seen within, 
lichen-stained, and mantled over by a wild vine. 
Amphiaraus rolled his cloak together for a pillow 
and propped it against the altar, and laid him 
down to sleep. Now as he slept, he dreamed a 
dream ; he thought that a large, bright-eyed 
snake came out of the altar and coiled itself 
round him, and that it licked his eyes and his 
ears with its soft, forked tongue. This terrified 
him so, that he awoke, and then, as it seemed to 
him that voices were talking close at hand, he 


raised himself very quietly on one elbow, listen- 
ing, and looking about him. It was still night, 
but the stars gave light enough in the roofless 
chamber to see two little brown owls perched side 
by side on the broken cornice. The low talking 
went on, till suddenly one of the voices quite 
softly, but quite distinctly hooted. Then the 
prince looked at the owls again, and saw that 
they were the speakers, and he listened with all 
his might, pretending to be asleep. 

"What youth is that," said one, "and why has 
he come to sleep on the grave of Melampus ? " 

" Little wife," answered the other, " he is called 
Amphiaraus, and he is the grandson of Melampus, 
and rightful king of half this land." 

" How comes that ? " said the lady owl. " Is 
not Adrastus rightful king of all Argos, seeing 
that he is descended from the elder brother of 
Melampus ? " 

" It is a long story," replied her mate, " but 
you shall hear it if you like." And he told her 
the tale of the three proud princesses, and how 
Melampus gained two-thirds of the kingdom and 
gave an equal share to Bias, his brother. " So 
you see," he said, "that King Adrastus is no 
better than a usurper, although he belongs to the 
elder branch of that family. He has brought up 
this youth in ignorance of his rights, and taught 
him to suppose that his grandfather Melampus 


held only the rank of a younger brother to the 
King from whom Adrastus himself inherits the 
whole land. Covetousness, my little wife, is 
the root of strange evils among men, and it is 
well seen in this greedy King and his greedier 
sister, Eriphyle. Like brother, like sister ; because 
she has lost a gewgaw that you and I would not 
give a mouse for, she has sent this lad who loves 
her to the world's end to look for its like." 

" How wise you are," said the lady owl. " It 
does a bird's heart good to listen to you. But 
tell me, will Amphiaraus find her jewel for the 
princess ? It seems a pity such a handsome young 
prince should go wandering about the world like 
a beggar." 

" He need not wander far if he knew where 
to look," said the other owl. " The princess 
dropped her earring when she was swinging in the 
orchard, and a magpie, who spied it in the grass, 
picked it up and flew off with it. That magpie 
happens to have built a nest at the top of the 
sycamore which you see yonder, at the end of 
this olive grove, and she has put the earring into 
it, by way of ornament. For my part, I always 
think that the magpies do not understand the true 
principles of house-building. The Beautiful is all 
very well, but when it comes to plastering one's walls 
with hard shiny things such as earrings, instead of 
with down, I, for one, consider it a mistake." 


"My dear husband," said the lady owl, "how 
happy it makes me to hear you discourse. I believe 
you are the very wisest owl that ever hooted." 

Upon this, her mate gave a hoot which sounded 
something like a pleased laugh, and both the 
little owls flew away. Amphiaraus sat till sunrise 
beside the altar, pondering on what he had heard. 
He understood, now, that his dream was a true 
vision ; he had heard how Melampus became a 
seer, and it was plain to him that the snake out 
of the grave was the spirit of the dead King, 
which had come forth in that shape to bestow 
his own strange powers upon his grandson. He 
had heard too that Melampus, when his end was 
near, desired that he might not be buried among 
the royal tombs of Argos, but rest under the open 
sky and among the woods which he had loved 
to haunt. Here, then, they had buried him, 
and built an altar and an unroofed shrine, but 
none had brought offerings to the tomb, nor 
repaired the crumbling walls, for many years, 
through fear of Adrastus, and of his father 
before him, who had threatened to punish any 
that showed honour to the memory of Melampus. 
Amphiaraus scarcely believed the owl had told 
a true tale about the King, his kinsman, who 
had always treated him with kindness, and he 
felt sure that he had spoken very unjustly 
against Eriphyle. " But I will soon see," he 


thought, " if the bird was right about the magpie 
and the earring." So he climbed the sycamore, 
and there indeed was the jewel in the magpie's 

The princess was overjoyed when he brought 
it to her, and her pleasure was pretty to see, but 
he noticed rather sadly that, while she eagerly 
fingered the precious earring again and again to see 
that it had received no injury, she only asked him 
carelessly where he had found it, and quite forgot 
to thank him. For the first time Amphiaraus 
felt that he had a secret which she must not 
share ; he told her he had found her jewel in a 
tree, where perhaps some thievish bird had carried 
it. "Very likely," she said, turning away, "but 
no matter where it was, since I have it again." 
And she went from him, smiling, to lay it up 
with her other treasures. 

From that day the young prince was greatly 
changed ; he grew silent and thoughtful, and 
wandered much alone among the woods and hills, 
with only his two hounds for company. King 
Adrastus supposed that he went hunting, and 
was wont to banter him pleasantly on his poor 
success, for it was seldom that he brought home 
any game. But Amphiaraus for the most part 
was not hunting ; he was listening to the new 
language that his ears were opened to understand, 
and learning wisdom of beast and bird. Now, too, 


he could talk to his dogs, and the pleasure this 
was to them made amends for their disappointment 
when their master would not let them chase a 
doe or hare. So passed the summer, but when 
winter came, with its cold and rain, he went more 
seldom into the woodlands, and began to be seen 
more often in the market-place of the city, where, 
under long pillared porticoes of the temples around 
it, the folk of Argos gathered for buying and 
selling, and the old men would sit and talk. 
Amphiaraus went much among the people, who 
loved the young prince for his courteous speech 
and comely looks ; he listened with respect to the 
talk of the old citizens, and they, who remembered 
his wise grandfather, and secretly hated King 
Adrastus, began to say among themselves that 
the wisdom of the good Melampus had come 
down to this noble youth, so shamefully kept 
from his inheritance. 

And little by little they cautiously dropped 
hints in his hearing, which he, who knew so much 
more than they thought, was quick to understand 
and to show that he understood, till at length 
they saw that he knew the whole story, though 
they could not guess by what means he learnt 
it. Now, Adrastus ruled the people hardly, for 
he was not less greedy of gain than the little owl 
had said, and he oppressed the folk with more 
and more tolls and taxes, so that he became 


hateful to them. Also he took bribes and 
presents from those who came to plead their 
causes before him, and gave judgments for the 
rich against the poor, who had nothing to give 
him. These things bred much discontent in 
Argos, and whispers went abroad that some end 
should be made to this wrong-doing. There 
came a day at last when word went through the 
city of yet another tax to be laid upon the people, 
more grievous than any before, and at that a cry 
arose : " We will not longer endure this folk- 
devouring King ! To arms, friends, and let us 
fall upon Adrastus and his guards in the palace. 
Better be slain with the sword than pay his dues 
of our corn and wine and oil till we perish with 
hunger." Then the elders of the city answered 
the people : " Well said, yet bethink you what 
you will do. Was it ever heard or known that 
any but a king could stand up against a king ? 
Who shall lead you against Adrastus, and who 
will rule you and fight your battles in his stead ? " 
Then, even as they hoped, the people cried, 
" The grandson of Melampus shall be our leader. 
Amphiaraus shall be king over us, and we will 
cast out the usurper who holds his land." So 
the whole city rose up in revolt, with shouting 
and clashing of arms, and marched upon the 
palace. Adrastus was a brave warrior, but he 
and his guards were taken by surprise, so suddenly 


the multitude broke in upon them, crying, 
"Amphiaraus shall he King! Away with the 
usurper ! ' Now while Adrastus and his men 
ran to the armoury to get their weapons, Amphi- 
araus stood still, amazed by the cry he heard, and 
the people thronged round him with loud shouts 
of, " Hail, King of Argos ! " till the hall rang 
again. " Alas, friends," he cried to them, " what 
means this tumult ? Can I take arms with you 
against Adrastus, my kinsman, my kind master 
since I was a child ? I pray you, if you love me, 
put up your swords, and hear me, while I speak to 
the King." Then, as the inner doors were flung 
open and Adrastus was seen standing armed at the 
head of his men, the young prince turned to him 
and said, " I had no part in this, O King, nor knew 
what the folk purposed, but now, lest worse come 
of it, suffer me to speak their request and mine." 
" Say on," said Adrastus. " The people would 
make me King," said Amphiaraus, " because the 
burden of tolls and taxes is more than they can 
bear, and because they know that I have the right 
to half the land you hold. Now it is best that 
there should be but one King in Argos, and you, 
my kinsman, must be that King, for I will never 
repay your kindness by disloyalty. I seek not 
to be King of half Argos, as were my father and 
my grandfather ; I ask only to possess their share 
of the land, and to hold it under you as my liege 


lord. But for the people I ask that they may 
have equal justice done to rich and poor, as it 
was done by our fathers, and pay no greater taxes 
than our fathers required of them. Consider well, 
Adrastus, what you will do, for these men are 
many and desperate, and who knows what shall 
be the end if once swords are drawn ? " 

The King was silent for a space, for he doubted 
what were best to do ; then he said : " I need 
time to answer such a request as this, and the day 
is far spent. Let the folk abide here, if they will, 
all night, to make sure I shall not bar the palace 
doors against them, and in the morning I will 
answer them and you." So the people remained 
in the King's hall and in the courtyard, and his 
servants brought them food and wine at nightfall, 
and they kept watch by companies all night. 
But Adrastus and his guards withdrew to the 
inner chambers of the palace, and there he gathered 
all his treasure together, and loaded his men there- 
with, and bade Eriphyle put all her jewels in 
bundles for her handmaids to carry, and led her, 
with all their train, through a secret passage from 
his underground treasure chamber to the fields 
beyond the palace garden. They could not take 
horses from the stables, for they were near the 
courtyard, and the noise of hoofs and wheels 
would have betrayed them, but stole away on 
foot through the darkness till they came to a 


farm of the King's, where some of his mules were 
kept, and these were harnessed to country carts 
for the princess and her women. Thence with 
all speed Adrastus and his company passed over 
the border of Argos and came as fugitives to the 
friendly city of Sicyon. 

When it was found in the morning that the 
King had fled, some were for pursuing him, but 
the old men said : " Let him alone, he has done 
wisely. For he knew he had made such enemies 
of the people that he could never dwell safely in 
Argos, so long as they saw Amphiaraus among 
them, whom all desire for their king. The gods 
have blessed yesterday's work with a good ending." 
And since Adrastus had chosen flight rather than 
do the justice asked of him, Amphiaraus was 
willing to rule in his stead over the people, and 
he ruled them wisely and well. Yet his heart 
was full of sadness at the thought of Eriphyle, 
driven from the home where now he lived in 
lonely state, to dwell among strangers ; and when 
he heard that her brother had made his abode 
in Sicyon, he sent messengers again and again 
with letters, praying to be reconciled to his kins- 
man and offering to bring him back as King on 
the former conditions. Adrastus for a long while 
returned no answer ; he had gathered a power in 
Sicyon with the help of his treasure, and was 
become master of the city, so that he meant ere 


long to come against Argos with an army and 
win back his throne by force. When two years 
were gone by, Amphiaraus could no longer endure 
his longing to see Eriphyle again ; he put on the 
disguise of a merchant, and went secretly to Sicyon 
with one faithful servant, and sought admission 
to the princess, saying that he had jewels to sell. 
Eriphyle received him in the chamber where she 
sat spinning with her maidens, and when she 
asked him the price of the jewels he showed her, 
" They are yours without a price, fair princess," he 
said, " if I may speak with you alone." At that, 
she sent the maidens out of the chamber, and 
forthwith he made himself known to her, and 
told her that he could have no joy of his kingdom 
because of his loneliness without her. Now the 
princess was weary of dwelling in a strange city, and 
she thought, " Jf I were wedded to Amphiaraus, 
for love of me he would do my brother's will in 
all things. Why should not Adrastus promise all 
he asks, and leave the rest to me ? '' So she smiled 
sweetly upon him, and with subtle words made 
him believe that Adrastus was even then about 
to send a letter to him, consenting to return. 
And after private speech with her brother, she 
brought him to Amphiaraus, and they embraced 
as friends. Adrastus of his own accord declared 
that he would come back to Argos and do all that 
was required of him : " You," he said, " shall 


possess your own land, and dwell with me in all 
honour, as second in the kingdom. Only, that 
we may live together like brothers, I desire to 
give you my sister for wife, making this compact 
with you, that should we ever differ on any 
matter, she shall decide between us." 

Now Amphiaraus was wise with the wisdom of 
the beasts and birds, who know things hidden 
from men, and can read the signs of what shall 
be before it comes ; but he had no skill in the 
crafty ways of man. He believed that Adrastus 
and his sister loved him as truly as he loved them, 
and he received the hand of the princess with the 
deepest joy. Yet after their wedding in Sicyon, 
as they all journeyed homewards together, he saw 
many sights that boded misfortune, and chilled 
his heart with fear of evil to come. They had 
not gone far when a hare ran across the road 
before them ; presently they saw a single magpie 
by the wayside, and every bird that flew over their 
heads was flying widdershins. And as they came 
near the gates of Argos, a raven rose on flapping 
wings from a thunder-blasted tree, and uttered 
one harsh croak. Amphiaraus alone could hear 
the word in that croak, and the word was " Death.'' 
So it was with a heavy heart that he came home 
again, although he brought with him the bride 
he had long desired, and the kinsman he had 
striven to restore to his throne. 



YEARS came and went, and still all was well with 
the princes and the folk of Argos. Adrastus 
soon learnt that Amphiaraus was a seer, and that 
whatever he foretold most surely came to pass, 
and he took his counsel in all things, so that the 
people marvelled because the King now ruled 
them mildly and justly. And the land had 
peace, for no enemy could plot anything against 
Adrastus that the birds did not bring warning of 
to Amphiaraus. Meanwhile children were born 
both to Eriphyle and to the wife whom the King 
had taken in Sicyon. Now when the daughters of 
the King were maidens grown, he was troubled 
by a strange dream concerning them, and told it 
to Amphiaraus. " I dreamed," he said, " that a 
lion and a bear came to Argos, and were married 
to my daughters. What means this?'' 

" To-morrow, at this time," answered the seer, 
" go out of the north gate of the city, and you 
will see that lion and that bear. Bring them to 
your palace, and marry them to your daughters, 
for the gods will have it so." 

Adrastus went out of the city gate on the 
morrow, and saw two young men coming towards 
him richly armed, after the fashion of king's sons 


and each had a painted shield. Now the shield 
of one was emblazoned with the figure of a lion, 
and that of the other with the figure of a bear. 
The King saluted them, and asked them who 
they were and whence they came. " I am called 
Tydeus," answered he with the lion-shield ; " I 
have fled from the house of my father, who is 
king in the far north country, because I have 
slain a kinsman by mischance." Then he whose 
device was the bear, said : " Polyneices is my 
name, and I come from the city of Thebes. The 
curse of blood is come upon the king my father, 
and he is an outcast from the land. Now my 
brother and I agreed together to rule in Thebes 
by turns, each for a year ; but when the first year 
was over, my brother would not give up the 
kingdom, and he has driven me forth, a banished 
man." So Adrastus knew that these princes were 
sent to him by the gods, to become his sons-in- 
law, according to his dream, and he bade them 
welcome and lodged them in the palace, and 
having persuaded them to abide in Argos, he gave 
them his daughters in marriage. 

But the king's son of Thebes could not rest for 
the hatred he had to his brother, and he thought 
day and night upon revenge. Ere long he began 
to work upon Adrastus with promises and en- 
treaties to gather a host together and make war 
on Thebes, telling him what great and goodly 


spoils should be his share when the city was 
taken. The King was easily moved by the hope 
of gain to undertake such a war ; he called his 
kinsmen and his captains together, and declared 
his mind to them. Now the rest were willing 
enough to follow him forth to battle, but they 
waited to hear what counsel Amphiaraus would 
give. Then slowly uprose the seer, and spoke a 
warning in solemn tones : " Fight not in this 
young man's quarrel, Adrastus, lest you bring on 
us and on our children the curse that rests upon 
his house. For three generations the wrath of 
the gods has not ceased from the royal race of 
Thebes, nor will it pass from them till Polyneices 
perish by the sword, ay, and his brother also. 
Hear now the tale of how it came. Laius the 
king, for a wickedness that he did in secret, was 
nated of the Heavenly Ones, and they laid this 
doom on him, that his own son should slay him, 
and pronounced it by the mouth of the priestess 
in the holy place of Delphi. Therefore, Laius, 
when his first child was born, had him cast out 
upon a wild and barren mountain, there to die or 
to be devoured by beasts of prey. But the herds- 
man of a neighbour king found the babe, and 
brought him to their lord's wife, who had no 
children, and she reared him as her son. It fell 
on a day, when he was grown a man, that he 
drove in a chariot over a saddle of the hills, and 


there met him another chariot and a troop of 
slaves running on foot. Now the two chariots 
could not pass in the narrow road, and the ser- 
vants of the man in the chariot cried roughly to 
the son of Laius to make way, and seized his 
horses' bridles to turn them off the road on to 
the hillside, and he, in anger, urged his horses 
forward till he was close to the other charioteer, 
who leaned forward and struck him in the face 
with his whip. At that the son of Laius drew 
his sword, and stabbed that stranger to the heart, 
and he fell down dead in the chariot. The youth 
had but one servant with him, and the slaves 
were many ; but they scattered in terror when 
they saw their lord was slain, and he dragged the 
dead man's chariot aside and went his way, not 
knowing the thing that he had done. For that 
man was Laius the king. After this the land of 
Thebes was ravaged by a strange and cruel mon- 
ster, who preyed on youths and maidens, till the 
dead king's kinsmen let proclaim everywhere that 
whoever should slay the monster should take the 
kingdom for his reward. Many bards have sung, 
and often have we heard in Argos, how a stranger 
youth made an end of that fell creature which 
men called the Sphinx, and became king in Thebes; 
that tale were too long to tell. 

" But the blood he had shed in wrath was avenged 
at last upon that stranger youth, for he was the 


son of Laius, and after many years a chance re- 
vealed to him the name of his true father, and 
who it was he slew on the mountain road. Then 
it was that in agony of soul he made known the 
truth to his sons, to this Polyneices and his 
brother, and bade them take the kingdom that 
he might go on pilgrimage to holy places, seek- 
ing to wash away his guilt. Ah, hard-hearted 
prince, little pity did you or your brother show 
to your aged father in his evil hour. You it 
was, his own children, who drove him from the 
land, a feeble, blind old man, to beg his bread 
among strangers, and on you, when you thrust 
him forth, did he call down a father's curse. 
Beware, I say, Adrastus, how you draw the sword 
for Polyneices. Too surely, when he marches 
against Thebes, will he march to the doom pre- 
* pared." When Amphiaraus had thus spoken, 
he went out from among them. Polyneices 
trembled at the words of the seer, for they 
brought to his mind the prayer his father uttered 
at his going forth from the gate of Thebes : 
" O Sun, O Earth, behold the wrongs I suffer from 
these my children. Hear, Zeus on high, hear, gods 
of the under-world, the prayer of Oedipus the outcast, 
who once was Oedipus the King. As these sons of 
mine have thrust me out unpitied in mine age, so let 
them fall unpitied in their youth : as they have hated 
me for a crime that 1 did unwittingly, so may they 


hate each other, till their hate leads them to a crime 
that they shall do with open eyes" 

Yet his heart was so bent upon revenge, that 
no warning could turn him from his purpose; 
he was ready to brave destruction, if only he 
might destroy Eteocles his brother before it over- 
whelmed him. Therefore he pleaded earnestly 
with Adrastus, and his pleading prevailed against 
the warning of Amphiaraus, for the King said, 
" Be the rest as it may, Polyneices has had much 
wrong from his brother, and I am minded to 
help him to his right." Then Tydeus, his other 
son-in-law, who was a mighty warrior, said, " I, 
too, am fain to do battle for him, and there are 
many princes and chiefs, our neighbours, who 
will gladly march with us to Thebes, to win 
themselves renown of valour. But some means 
must be found to make Amphiaraus one of us, 
for his name is great in all the land both as a 
warrior and a prophet, and neither princes nor 
people will fight with good hope, unless he go 
with our host." 

" Leave that to me," said Adrastus, " for 
I know a way to turn him to what I will." 
And he broke up their council, and sent word 
to Eriphyle that he desired speech with her. 

Now Eriphyle had lived so long with Amphi- 
araus that his tender goodness had brought love 
out of that selfish heart of hers, as the gentle 


rain brings flowers out of a parched garden-soil. 
So when she came to her brother, and he told 
her that the time was come for her to decide 
a matter between him and her husband, accord- 
ing to the marriage-compact, she said to him : 
" You are very dear to me, my brother, but my 
lord and husband is dearer still. What seems 
good to him I also will uphold, though I am 
loth to gainsay you." And she went back to 
her house without more words spoken, and told 
Amphiaraus what had passed. The seer pressed 
her hand in silence, and she said, " Do you know, 
my lord, what this matter is, that Adrastus would 
have had me take his part in, and so have com- 
pelled your consent ? " 

Then he told the King's desire to war with 
Thebes, and said with a sigh, " I should have 
known that Adrastus would not heed my warn- 
ing when there is hope of golden spoils to be 
won, but I little thought he would seek this way 
to force me to fight in his host. That is what 
he meant you to do, my wife, to bid me march 
with him to Thebes, and by my marriage oath 
I am bound to yield to his will, whenever you 
shall so decide. Now I will tell you a thing 
that I told not to Adrastus, for little would 
it have hindered his going. I, if I go to Thebes, 
shall return no more, but meet my doom there." 

Ill-pleased was King Adrastus that his sister 


would not so much as hear the thing he desired 
her help in against Amphiaraus, and he railed 
upon her to Polyneices, saying, " Who shall read 
a woman ? This sister of mine that once loved 
nothing but gold and jewels, as well becomes 
a king's daughter, prates to me now of love 
for the man whom she took for her lord only 
that she might come back to Argos and make 
him a tool in my hands. For Amphiaraus and 
I took an oath together to abide by her judgment 
when we came to variance, and now if she would 
say the word, he must come with us to Thebes, 
whether he will or no." 

"Do you tell me that?' said Polyneices; 
" then let me deal with your sister." Now he said 
to himself that as he had won the brother with a 
bribe of wealth, so he would win the sister, now he 
knew that she loved jewels. For he had brought 
with him to Argos a rarer treasure than could 
be found in the caskets of all the queens on 
earth. It was a necklace of strange device and 
cunning workmanship ; from a narrow band of 
beaten gold, two rows of pendants hung by 
chains of pearls, and in the upper row each 
pendant was a golden dove, with outspread 
wings and ruby eyes, but in the lower, each 
pendant was a golden hand, clasping an apple, 
and every apple was a topaz or an emerald. 
This, long ago, was a marriage gift of the 


goddess Aphrodite to her fair child Harmonia, 
whom the gods gave for bride to the first King 
of Thebes, and all the queens of his house had 
worn it, till the mother of Polyneices bestowed 
it on her favourite son. With this, he thought, 
he could tempt Eriphyle to betray her husband, 
however much she loved him. And he was 
right ; the princess at first refused to listen, when 
his wife, her kinswoman, brought her his message 
and showed her the wondrous necklace, but he 
sent again and again, till at last desire of the 
precious thing so consumed Eriphyle, that she 
took it, with promise to give her voice for war 
with Thebes. 

Then Polyneices hastened to the King, and 
once more the princes of the land were sum- 
moned to council. Adrastus said that he was 
resolved to march at once upon the city, and 
when Amphiaraus told him sadly, " This once, 
I cannot go with you to battle," he answered, 
"That shall Eriphyle decide, even as you and 
I made compact long ago. Let her be called, 
and give judgment between us." 

Pale as death, with downcast eyes, the traitress 
came into the hall ; her brother, in few words, 
told her why she was sent for, and asked, " How 
say you, my sister ? Shall Amphiaraus go with 
me to Thebes, or shall he forbear?' And with 
eyes still fixed upon the ground, she said in a 


low voice, " He shall go with you." Then she 
turned quickly, and went out of that assemblage 
with the handmaids who followed her. 

" You have heard, Amphiaraus," said the King, 
with a smile of triumph, " and you know now 
that to Thebes you must go." 

" I have heard my doom," said the seer, " and 
not mine only. For I say to you, princes of 
Argos, that of seven champions who will lead 
our host against yonder city, not one shall return 
alive, save one, and he in flight from a lost 
battle." So saying, he went also to his house. 

Before many days, a gallant army set forth 
at break of day from the gates of Argos, in 
seven companies, headed by as many princes in 
panoply of war. Each chief, but one, had some 
device blazoned on his shield which he had 
chosen to express his purpose and his hopes in 
going forth. First came the brave Tydeus, whose 
shield, the colour of the midnight sky, was thick 
sown with silver stars, with a full orbed moon 
in the midst, for he said, " As many stars as 
shine around this moon, so many souls will I 
send to throng the palace of Death's Queen, who 
is the moon of the Nether World." Next came 
Capaneus, of that former royal house of Argos, 
whose last king fell by the wrath of Hera ; his 
emblem was a naked man with a blazing torch, 
and over him written, 'i WILL FIRE THE CITY.' 


The third and the fourth leaders were warlike 
princes, neighbours to Adrastus, who had for 
their devices, the one that earth-born giant 
Typhon, half-man, half-snake, with flames issu- 
ing from his mouth ; the other, in bitter mockery 
of Thebes, her ancient plague, the monstrous 
Sphinx, with the body of a youth in its claws. 
The shield of Polyneices bore the figure of a 
man in golden armour, led by a woman of noble 
and modest aspect, above whose head was written 
her name, 'JUSTICE,' while from her mouth came 
the words, ' THIS MAN WILL i LEAD HOME.' Then 
came King Adrastus, having for emblem a warrior 
fully armed, mounting a ladder against a city- 
wall, with this inscription, ' NOT ARES, THE WAR- 
GOD, SHALL TURN ME BACK.' Last of all came 
Amphiaraus, and he only had nothing painted on 
his shield. He heeded not the farewells and 
blessings of the crowd about the city gate, but 
gazed before him as though in a trance, until, 
as he passed through the archway, he turned and 
looked back at the white porch of his home. 
There, between his two young sons, Eriphyle 
was standing, and their eyes met in one long, 
last look. Never a word had they spoken to 
one another since she had said the word that 
sent him forth to his fate, and she had shunned 
the sight of his calm, sad face. She could not 
read the meaning of the glance he now turned 


upon her, but it seemed to pierce her very heart ; 
almost she rushed forward to call him back, but 
in a moment he had passed on at the head of 
his men. " It is too late," she said aloud, and 
went sobbing to her chamber. But before night 
she had clasped on the necklace ; she need not 
hide it now, and that was something. 

Adrastus and his host marched northwards 
through the land, and when they came to the 
border, they halted to offer sacrifice and prayer to 
Zeus, that he might send them a sign of good 
fortune ere they set foot on foreign ground. 
Amphiaraus, whose part it was as seer to inter- 
pret the signs given by the sacrifice, watched in 
silence while they heaped dry wood upon a way- 
side altar, and laid the burnt offering of a ram 
thereon, and kindled the pile ; well he knew that 
the sign given would be one plain enough for all 
to read without help of his. The thin flames, 
pale in the sunlight, had scarcely flickered up 
from the altar, when from the cloudless summer 
sky a shower of hail came hissing down upon the 
sacrifice, and quenched it in an instant. Thunder, 
in one sharp peal, followed the hail, which fell 
only on the altar. While all stood dismayed, 
Adrastus boldly cried, " Courage, my comrades. 
What though this portent tells us Zeus will not 
accept our offering, it may be that he foretells a 
greater. We have offered a ram on this poor 



altar, but the god perhaps signifies that he waits 
the sacrifice of a hundred oxen which I have 
vowed him from the spoil of Thebes." Thus 
he cheered the spirits of his army, but the princes 
cried, "Let the seer interpret for us. Tell us, 
Amphiaraus, what bodes this sign evil or good ? " 

"Nay," answered the seer, "hearken rather to 
Adrastus, for the time is gone by when word of 
mine could avail you. Yet, if he trusts in vows, 
let him know this, to obey is better than 

That night, the host encamped among the 
hills, and next noontide they rested in a deep 
and grassy vale, shut in by hanging woods. The 
streams of the valley were now dwindled or dried 
up by the heat of summer, and it was needful to 
seek elsewhere for water. The Seven Champions 
went a little further through the solitary vale, 
and found a woman seated on a flowery knoll, 
with a child playing at her feet, and they asked 
her if there were any springs in that place where 
their host might drink, and water the horses. 

" I will show you," she said, " where there is 
such a spring ; it is in yonder wood, across the 

Then they called to them their slaves from the 
camp, who came bearing great jars slung on poles, 
and followed the woman, but the child was left 
at play among the flowers of the meadow. Now 


when they returned from the spring, he was not 
where she had left him, nor did he answer her 
calling, and she began to weep, saying, " He is the 
King's only son, whom I, his nurse, brought 
hither to play ; if evil has befallen him, I am 

" He cannot be far away," said the Seven 
Champions, and they bade their men search the 

But Amphiaraus saw the head and back of a 
serpent glancing through the meadow grass at a 
distance, and said, "He is yonder." They ran 
where he pointed, and the woman with a loud 
cry threw herself upon the body of the child, who 
lay there dead, slain by that serpent's bite. Fear 
and trembling came upon the Seven, for all knew 
that the sight of Death upon the road foretells 
utter disaster to the traveller, and of all evil signs 
this is the worst. Nevertheless, the hearts of the 
rest were hardened, by the will of the gods, that 
they might fulfil their doom, and the seer spoke 
no word to turn them from their onward march, 
knowing it was now too late. He bade the 
weeping nurse be comforted, for no harm should 
come to her, and asked her the name of that 
place. "It is called the vale of Nemea," she 
said, " and the folk say Heracles, that great hero, 
did his first mighty deed here, ridding these woods 
of a man-slaying lion. They say he strangled the 


monster with his bare hands, and I may well 
believe it ; the men of to-day are but weaklings 
to him and his godlike generation, whom I saw 
in my youth." 

Now this woman was old, and meanly clad, 
yet she bore herself nobly, and her speech was 
not the speech of a slave. Adrastus asked her 
name, and whether she were any kin to her 
master, the king of that country. "I am Hyp- 
sipyle," she answered, " who once was queen of 
an island far away. An evil fate cast me from my 
throne, and my foes sold me into bondage. And 
now, when I take the tidings to my master that 
his child is dead, he will surely put me to death 
because I kept not guard over my nursling." 

But the Seven Champions sent a herald with 
those tidings to the King, her master, and he 
came to them with his Queen, and all their 
household, making great lamentation. The 
Seven gave him sorrowful greeting, and when 
they had made themselves known to him, they 
laid all blame to themselves for the mischance 
that had befallen, and took his promise to hold 
the nurse guiltless. Then they buried the child 
in that same meadow, and raised a lofty mound 
over the grave, and set a pillar of stone upon the 
mound, whereon his name should be engraven, to 
keep him in remembrance. All the host from 
Argos mourned for him with his own people, for 


three days and three nights, and the King, his 
father, made a great funeral feast in the vale of 
Nemea. On the third day, the Seven Champions 
departed, but first Amphiaraus made solemn 
offerings at the grave, pouring milk mingled 
with honey upon it, as the custom was, and he 
spoke these words to the father : " I bid you 
engrave a new name upon this memorial stone, 
and not the name which your child bore in his 
life. Henceforth his name is Archemorus, that 
is, Doom's Firstling, for he was made the beginning 
of calamity to us in this our ill-starred journey. 
Grieve not, O King, for his early death, since 
without having known toil or pain, he has won 
glory such as many strive for through long and 
weary lives. For a thousand years to come, men 
shall hold solemn feasts beside this grave, and call 
his death to remembrance ; the flower of youth 
from all the cities of Greece shall gather to those 
festivals, and contend in feats of strength, and in 
honour to his memory the victors shall be crowned 
with garlands of the wild parsley which grows on 
the spot where he died." 

With this prophecy the seer went his way. 

News of the coming of the Seven Champions 
flew before them, and there was tumult and fear 
in the city of Thebes. Eteocles, the King, made 
ready to defend the walls against them, and he 
alone felt no fear ; he was of sterner mood than 


his brother Polyneices, and the thought of their 
father's curse troubled him not at all. He ap- 
pointed six doughty chieftains to guard six gates 
of the city, for his scouts brought word that each 
leader of the enemy's host was encamped before 
one of the seven gates of Thebes, and having 
asked where Polyneices was posted, he said, " That 
gate I will defend myself. My traitor-brother, 
who dares to threaten his mother-city with fire 
and sword, must fall by no hand but mine." 
These dreadful words were spoken in the hearing 
of his household, and of the wives and mothers 
of the citizens, who had flocked for safety to the 
fortified rock whereon the palace stood, and all 
who heard them trembled. But none dared say 
their mind to the King, except one grey-haired 
dame, who had known him from a child. " The 
gods forbid," she cried, wringing her withered 
hands, "that ever the sons of one mother should 
meet in deadly fray. Nay, my King, do not this 
wickedness : bring not the deep pollution of a 
brother's blood upon you. Command one of 
your captains to guard the seventh gate, and 
fight yourself against some other champion, not 
with Polyneices, lest the gods of our city with- 
hold their aid from you in anger." 

Then others of the women entreated him also 
not to fight at the seventh gate, falling at his 
feet with loud laments and clasping his knees in 


supplication. But Eteocles thrust them away in 
a rage, bidding them hold their peace for a pack 
of brawling fools. 

"As for the gods," he said, "I care not how I 
may offend them, seeing that they have long 
hated all my race with a great hatred." And he 
went forth to look to the manning of the walls, 
and took his post at the seventh gate. 

The host of the Seven Champions was now 
mustered for the onset ; their trumpets rang out 
the signal, and above the clash of armour and 
clatter of chariot-wheels were heard the war-cries 
of the Seven as they rushed forward to the 
assault, and the answering shouts of the men of 
Thebes. As the bold Tydeus mounted his 
chariot, he saw Amphiaraus come forth from his 
tent and stand beside his own ready car, stroking 
the necks of the horses, and talking to them. 
"Ah, laggard!" he called to him, "so our seer 
is too wise to face the doom he foretold us. 
Now shame on you, Amphiaraus, for even if 
your prophet's eyes see Death himself waiting 
at yonder gate, you play a coward's part in 
loitering here." 

The seer lifted up his eyes and looked to- 
wards the gate on which his men were already 

" I do indeed see what none else may see, 
yonder," he answered, " but it is not Death ; 


it is a warrior-form in the likeness of myself, 
as I was in youth, and his shield bears the 
speckled snake, that I took for badge in memory 
of Melampus. Yet it is not the wraith of my- 
self, for I see him enter that gate a victor, from 
which I must be beaten back this very day. It 
is the vision of my son, the boy Alcmaeon, as 
he will one day be seen ; the gods have granted 
me to know, in this last hour, that our children, 
Tydeus, shall conquer where their fathers fell. 
But now farewell, brave prince, for neither you 
nor I shall return to pleasant Argos ; would with 
all my heart that I might die the death of a 
warrior with my noble comrades, but another 
doom is mine." 

Then, with rapt gaze still bent upon the city 
gate, Amphiaraus stepped into his chariot and 
gathered up the reins, and at the bidding of 
his loved voice the horses dashed full gallop into 
the thick of the battle. 

All day, like the thunder of surf against the 
cliffs, the din of that great fight swelled and 
sank round the walls of Thebes ; all day a pall 
of coppery haze hung low over the city in the 
hot June air, laden with the sandy dust that rose 
in clouds from the trampled earth. So low it 
hung that the men upon the wall saw as through 
veils of fog the sudden glint of weapons, and 
white grim faces of the foes, come surging up 


from below when now and again some party 
of the invaders had planted their scaling-ladders 
against the ramparts in spite of the showers of 
darts and stones hurled down upon them. Now 
of scores who scaled the ladders, all were beaten 
back or cast down headlong before they could set 
foot upon the wall, except Capaneus, he of the 
Seven who had written on his shield the boast 
that he would fire the city. But he, carrying a 
blazing torch in his left hand, thrust it in the 
face of the nearest foes as he leaped among them, 
so that they fell back, and he sprang past them, 
and gained the roof of a temple that was built 
against the wall's inner side. "Zeus himself," 
he shouted, "shall not stop me now." The men 
of Thebes durst not leave the battlement to 
follow him, for his comrades came crowding up 
the ladder, and Capaneus in another instant 
would have fired the wooden gable of the temple, 
when, with one blinding flash of jagged flame, a 
thunderbolt out of heaven struck him and his 
torch to a heap of ashes. Such was the end of 
a man who had ever made a boast of defying the 
power of the gods. 

Now, where all fought fearlessly and well, 
none did more valiantly than King Adrastus, 
and the foemen went down like corn before 
the reaper as he hewed his way among them 
to the gate. But as the day wore on, his own 


ranks were thinned ever faster by the missiles 
from the walls, and evil reports came by one 
messenger after another of the fighting at the 
other gates. Capaneus, they said, was charred 
to ashes by a thunderbolt, a manifest judgment 
of Zeus upon his impious vaunt, and Tydeus 
was breathing his last, wounded to death by 
the Theban chieftain he had slain in single 
combat. Then came word that others of the 
Seven were fallen, and when the light of sunset 
began to dye those reddened walls with a deeper 
crimson, a cry went through the host, from gate 
to gate : " O men of Argos, our cause is lost ; 
the princes of Thebes have met, and Polyneices 
is hewn down by his brother's sword." At that 
cry, the besieged as one man burst out by all 
the gates with shouts of victory, and drove the 
now wavering mass of the invaders in rout before 
them. Adrastus knew that he only was left 
alive of the Seven, unless Amphiaraus, of whom 
no word had reached him, were among the 
flying ; the day was lost indeed, and he turned 
rein and fled for his life. The pursuers pressed 
hard upon him, and one of his horses began 
to slacken speed at last for weariness and lack 
of provender ; but the other, a bay stallion of 
Corinthian breed that Amphiaraus had given him, 
held on gallantly, straining at the yoke. "Save 
me now, Arion," Adrastus called to him; "save 


me for his sake who reared you and gave you 
to me," and quick as thought he lighted down 
from the chariot, cut Arion's trace, and sprang 
upon his back. The good horse neighed as if 
to show he understood, then went forward like 
the wind; over hill and dale he sped untiring, 
till he brought his rider safe to Argos. 

The King was the first to bring those evil 
tidings to the city, and few there were who 
came behind him of all the great array that 
went forth to Thebes. Amphiaraus was not 
among the fugitives, nor could any of them 
give news as to his fate in the battle. The 
city was filled with the lamentations of the old 
men, the women and children, mourning for 
sons, husbands and fathers, for every household 
was made desolate, from the least to the greatest. 
Then the elders of the folk, clad in white robes 
(for white was the hue of mourning at Argos), 
came to the King and besought him to send a 
herald to Thebes, praying leave to bring home 
the bones of the men who had fallen, that at 
least they might rest in the sepulchres of their 
fathers. This Adrastus did, and he himself, 
with the remnant of his fighting men, followed 
the herald to the border of the Theban land, 
there to wait till leave were granted. The 
herald returned with word that there was a new 
king in Thebes. " Eteocles," he said, "even as 


he clove the helm of his brother, was stabbed 
by him a hand's-deep in the breast, and they 
fell down dead together. Creon, their mother's 
brother, now rules the city, and he grants you the 
truce you desire, but bids you come unarmed." 
So Adrastus and his train came weaponless, in 
the white garb of mourning, beneath the walls, 
and they built a great pyre before each gate, 
and laid their dead thereon for the burning. 
For so was the custom of those days, to burn 
the bodies of those slain in war abroad, and 
gather their ashes into urns, which were laid in 
tombs in their own land. Now the body of 
Amphiaraus was not found among the slain, and 
as Adrastus stood watching the burning pyres, 
he lifted up his voice and wept, saying, " Would 
that even in death I might look on his face 
again, the jewel of all my host, the best of 
warriors and the best of seers." 

Scarcely had he said this, when he saw a youth 
running towards him from a grove of poplars 
nigh at hand, and he knew him for the shield- 
bearer of Amphiaraus. " How conies it, young 
man," said Adrastus, " that you are here, neither 
slain nor captive, and where is your lord ? " 

" King," said the youth, making obeisance, 
" these three days I have hidden in the woods, 
fearing the Theban horsemen who have been 
hunting our people that escaped. I was in the 


chariot with my lord, the seer, while he fought, 
and he fought like a lion until that terror from 
the gods fell upon the host, when they heard that 
Polyneices was killed. Then, when all were fly- 
ing, the seer said, ' The hour is come,' and he 
turned his horses from the gate, yet he followed 
not the rest who fled toward Argos, but made for 
the woods eastward. The captain of that gate 
saw him, and came after us, driving furiously, 
and crying, ' Turn, coward, and fight with me,' 
but the seer answered never a word, nor looked 
back ; I feared when I looked at him, for his face 
was set like a statue's, and his eyes seemed follow- 
ing some unseen thing along the road. Now we 
came to an open glade among the trees, and sud- 
denly he pulled the horses backwards, and brought 
the chariot to a standstill, and said to me, ' Light 
down quickly, my son, for here is my journey's 
end.' And as I did so, wondering, he cried, 
' Stand back from the chariot ; stand back from 
this place, I charge you, as you love your life. 
Commend me to Adrastus, and farewell.' In that 
instant I felt the ground rock under my feet, and 
I leaped back, and ran to the edge of the wood. 
I saw the chariot that pursued us sway from side 
to side, and the horses stop in mid-career, trem- 
bling and plunging, and the brandished spear 
drop from the Theban captain's hand, and then 
oh, what a sight was that for mortal eyes the 


heaving earth yawned asunder beneath the chariot 
of Amphiaraus, and he and his horses went down 
alive into the pit. Before we that saw it could 
draw breath to cry out, the chasm closed over 
their heads. Woe is me for my kind lord, and 
woe will there be in Argos for the shepherd of 
the folk that is taken away by so dread a 

The King and all his company heard this tale 
in awestruck silence, but presently they fell to 
weeping afresh at the thought that they could not 
bring back to Argos even the poor relics of that 
wise and mighty prince, to rest in honour among 
his own people. The pyres of the dead burned 
all night, and at dawn they quenched the embers 
with wine, and gathered the ashes into the urns 
of painted clay, and made ready to depart. Then 
came to them out of the city a venerable old 
man, wearing a priest's chaplet of white wool, 
twined with leaves, on his long grey hair, and led 
by a young boy, for he was blind. He walked 
slowly to where the King was standing, and spoke 
thus, leaning on his staff: "My name, O King 
Adrastus, is Teiresias, priest of Apollo's temple 
in this place, to whom the gods have given the 
power of a seer and a diviner of dreams, even as 
they gave it to Melampus and his house. I am 
come to bid you be comforted concerning Am- 
phiaraus, for the doom that overtook him was 


sent of Zeus, who would not suffer so good a 
man to be dishonoured by falling in the rout of a 
vanquished host. He has perished, as the Fates 
ordained all save one of the Seven Champions 
should perish, but he was spared the stroke of a 
conqueror's spear. Moreover, his spirit rests in 
peace in the abode of just and holy men departed, 
where the beloved of the gods are granted a tear- 
less life for evermore. There, among the lilies 
and asphodel of dewy meadows, he walks beside 
the still waters, in the light and fragrance of an 
eternal spring. And I am given to know that as 
in life he was the wise counsellor of his people, 
so from that other world he will yet bless them 
with his guidance, and not them only, but folk of 
many lands who seek it in their need. For in 
days to come men will raise a temple over that 
spot where the earth engulfed him, and to those 
who sleep within its walls the dead seer will show 
in dreams of the night the things that they pray 
to have revealed." 

Then Teiresias returned into the city of 
Thebes, but Adrastus went home to Argos 
with the relics of the slain, pondering deeply the 
words that he had heard, and he lived to know 
that they were truly spoken. 



ONCE upon a time there was a king's son 
called Peleus, and he went out into the 
world to seek his fortune. Many adventures 
befell him on his travels, and wherever he came 
he made friends, for he was brave in war and 
gentle in peace, very strong, and fair to look 
upon, and as good as he was beautiful. Of all 
things, he took most delight in hunting, and in 
those days that sport was perilous, for the whole 
earth was full of savage beasts. The lion and 
the bear and the fierce wild boar roamed in the 
mountains and forests, and men feared them 
greatly for the harm they did to flocks and herds 
and crops, so that to slay such creatures was 
thought fit work for the bravest. Now it 
chanced, as Peleus wandered in the land of 
Greece, that he came to the house of a king, 
and the king's son became his friend. But, by 
great misfortune, one day that the two lads went 

97 G 


hunting together, Peleus cast his javelin at a boar, 
and it flew sideways from his hand and pierced 
the heart of his comrade. Peleus could not bear 
to go back to the king with tidings that his son 
was slain ; he fled away in wild grief through the 
lonely woods, not knowing or caring whither. 
He was no murderer, yet he had shed blood, and 
he knew that every one would shrink from him 
as unclean, till he could find a protector who 
would aid him to wash away the stain of guilt. 
Only a king or a priest could do this for him ; 
only these had power, when a man had caused 
another's death by accident, to purify him from 
the deed of blood by prayer and sacrifice to the 
gods. Peleus soon found such a helper. His 
wanderings brought him to the fair town of lolcos 
by the sea, and he made himself known to the 
king, who received him kindly, and did him the 
service he besought. There he dwelt for a time, 
and served that king, whose name was Acastus, 
with a grateful heart. But the queen, Hippolyta, 
was the wickedest of women, although fair as a 
lily, and sweet as honey in all her ways, and, by 
evil hap, she no sooner cast eyes on the beautiful 
stranger than she fell in love with him. From 
that day she thought of nothing but of how to 
get him into her power, but Peleus seemed to 
have no eyes for her soft glances, and no ears for 
her flattering speeches. At last she found him 


alone one day in a room of the palace, and, 
cunning woman that she was, began to tell him 
of a secret treasure that King Acastus had, which 
she would sell him for a kiss. Peleus, at first, 
could not understand her words, but when she 
spoke more plainly, he turned hot with anger, 
and broke away from her with horror, calling 
the God of Guestright to witness that never for 
any bribe would he rob the king, his kind host, 
of anything that was his. Now the God of 
Guestright is Zeus, who protects all strangers, 
and rewards all those who receive them hospi- 
tably, moreover, his vengeance falls upon all who 
return evil for good to their hosts. So he had 
been well pleased that Acastus befriended Peleus 
in his need, and that Peleus was grateful, and 
now from his throne in the sky he heard these 
words, and remembered them in due time. 

Queen Hippolyta's love was of the kind that 
turns to bitterest hate if it is slighted ; her pride 
was stung by the lad's look of scorn, and now her 
one thought was how to be revenged on him. 
She knew that her trusting lord would believe 
anything she told him, and she resolved in her 
wicked heart upon a plan by which Peleus should 
perish, and her own guilt never be known. With 
sighs and tears she told King Acastus that they 
were terribly deceived in the stranger who seemed 
so noble, for he had dared to ask her for the 



secret treasure, nay, had sought to take it from 
her by force. Never doubting that the Queen's 
story was true, Acastus was enraged beyond 
measure at such black-hearted ingratitude, and 
swore that Peleus should die for his treachery. 
Yet, because he was his guest, he would not kill 
him under his own roof, but took thought how 
he might destroy him in some other place. Now 
there was in that country a great mountain called 
Pelion, covered with forest, where there was good 
hunting. Many a tall deer had the King and 
Peleus chased in those green woods and through 
the glens where the rushing mountain streams 
went singing down their rocky moss-fringed 
channels. Acastus thought that he would take 
Peleus hunting there once more, and after a 
long day's chase they would rest, as they some- 
times did, in a cavern of the hills for the night. 
Then he would steal the sleeping youth's weapons 
from his side, and bid his servants put him to 
death when morning came. But he himself would 
slip away before it was light, for he would not 
slay with his own hand one who had eaten his 
bread and drunk of his cup. 

And all would have come to pass as he had 
planned, but that Zeus did not forget Peleus. 
After the day's hunting the King and his train 
went to the cave, and cooked their supper, and 
lay down to sleep. But in the early dawn Peleus 


awoke, and looked about him, and saw that his 
weapons were gone. Acastus, too, was gone, and 
in the doorway of the cave stood the servants, 
with white faces and drawn swords, whispering 
together, for they feared to set upon Peleus, 
unarmed though he was. Then he sprang up 
with a cry, and at that they rushed upon him all 
together. In that instant another cry sounded 
behind them, and a thundering clatter of horse- 
hoofs, and as they turned in amaze, a huge four- 
footed thing came plunging past them and stood 
at Peleus' side. At that sound and sight the 
men broke and fled ; well they knew what the 
strange creature was, and once those forests had 
been full of them, though now they were rarely 
seen. Peleus also knew by report that wondrous 
double-natured race, called Centaurs, but he gazed 
in wonder and some fear on what he now saw to 
be one of them. The Centaur's form was human 
down to the waist, but there it ended in the body 
of a powerful horse. Half man, half beast, he 
seemed at once terrible and mild ; his eye flashed 

* * 

fire, and his brawny arms bent the bow he carried 
with a fierce gesture as he wheeled round to face 
the terrified servants, yet he had a wise and gentle 
face, and now bade the astonished youth fear 
nothing, in a deep and kindly voice. 

" You came in a good hour for me," said 
Peleus, " for those men of the King's were about 


to kill me, and, as I heard them muttering, they 
had his commands. What this may mean I can- 
not guess ; I know that I have served him faith- 
fully, and he ever seemed to love me well. But 
tell me what I must call you, my kind deliverer, 
and what chance brought you here, and then I in 
turn will tell you who I am, and all my unhappy 

"Call me Chiron," said the Centaur, "but ask 
not, Peleus, what chance sent me hither, for it was 
no chance, but the providence of Zeus. In your 
hour of temptation did you not call upon his 
name ? Yes, his all-seeing eye marked that you 
were true to his law, and those who honour him 
in secret, my son, he rewards openly. Believe 
me, he has great things in store for you which I 
may not speak of now. But as for Acastus, know 
that his wife brought a lying tale to him, feigning 
that you had sought to do him that very wrong 
which she would have bribed you to commit." 

Greatly did Peleus marvel how the Centaur 
could know all this, for he had said no word to 
any one of the Queen's wickedness, not only 
because he knew that she would utterly deny it, 
and none would believe him, but because a brave 
man will tell no tales of a woman, however bad 
she maybe. Chiron smiled, as though he guessed 
his thoughts, and took him gently by the hand. 
" Come, prince," he said, " you see that you need 


tell me nothing. You will not think that so 
strange when you know more about myself and 
about my people who live in the depths of this 
forest among the silent places of the hills. But 
now I must take you far up the mountain, where 
my own dwelling is. It is no palace, such as you 
have come from, but so keen a hunter as you are 
will find it a lodging after your own heart, and 
there must be your home for many a long day." 

So they went out of the cave into the morning 
sunshine, and as they took their way up the steep 
woodland paths Chiron began to speak of the 
Centaurs and the joys of their wild life among 
the mountains. He told of the far-off days when 
he himself was young, and first left his mother's 
side to roam far and wide in the forest. How 
glorious it had been to feel the strength of his 
young limbs as he galloped under the waving 
boughs, or splashed through the clear waters of 
some shady pool at the foot of a tinkling water- 
fall ! How wonderful, on summer nights, to 
climb the bare rocky summits of Pelion and look 
up into another forest, the forest of stars, where 
the great constellations wandered, the two Bears, 
and the Pleiades, like a flight of doves, and Orion 
the Huntsman, with his Dog ! In those days, he 
said, the Centaur folk were many in number, and 
lived at peace, knowing no enemies but the beasts 
of prey. These they made war upon with bows 


and arrows, for they had great skill in archery, 
but they hunted none other of the woodland 
creatures, and their food was only roots, and 
acorns, and wild berries. Men, whom they 
seldom saw, they pitied and despised as a feeble 
and deformed race, and Chiron had heard a story 
that the poor two-legged things were once a tribe 
of Centaurs, who angered the gods, and were 
punished by being cut in half. But Chiron's 
people had learned at last to fear the puny race 
more than the fiercest and strongest wild beasts, 
"and this, Peleus," he said, "is how it came to 
pass. There was a great feast made in this land 
for the wedding of a king's son, to which all were 
bidden from far and near, even the Centaurs from 
the hills. Now, none of them had ever tasted 
wine, nor knew what it was, and when they were 
given to drink of it at the banquet they thought 
the gods themselves had not a diviner liquor, and 
they drank till madness came upon them, so that 
they began to insult and quarrel with the other 
guests. Then one of them, starting up, laid 
hands on the fair bride, crying that he would 
carry her off for a prize, and the rest, with savage 
laughter and shouting, seized the maidens, her 
companions. In a moment that merry feast was 
turned to a bloody fray ; the hall rang with the 
shrieks of the women and the shouts of the men 
as they sprang to defend them and struggled with 


the furious Centaurs, who reared and plunged to 
and fro, lashing out with their terrible hoofs. 
Many a man went down in that deadly fight and 
was trampled to death as he fell, yet, Peleus, my 
people, for all their mighty strength, were no 
match for the folk they had despised, for these 
men, these weaklings, fought with weapons un- 
known to the Centaurs, with the sword and the 
spear. And one by one, though the great creatures 
fought long and stubbornly, they felt the fatal 
thrust of iron in breast or side, one by one they 
were struck down, till at last the whole troop lay 
dead or dying in the hall, and their red blood was 
mingled on its pavement with the red wine that 
ran from the overturned wine-jars. Ever since 
that day those who were left of my people have 
shunned the face of man, and hidden from him 
in the loneliest nooks of Pelion. For we have 
learnt that he is the destined lord of the earth, 
and where he comes all other creatures must 
give place, or else obey him. Therefore we, 
who cannot be tamed any more than our mountain 
torrents, must die out and disappear from our 
loved haunts. Soon there will be no more of 
us, and the time will come when men will even 
doubt if we ever existed." 

" If I were you," Peleus replied, " I should 
hate the race that you say is ordained to subdue 
the earth and drive your people before it. How 


is it then, O Chiron, that you can show yourself 
so friendly to me, a man, and speak so patiently 
of the doom you foresee for your kindred ? ' 

Once more his strange guide smiled, and it 
seemed to the youth that he looked at him with 
tenderness and with pity. " Dear lad," he said 
at last, " nothing that lives is so wonderful as 
man ; but the immortal gods, when they gave him 
gifts above all Earth's other children, gave him 
also two things to keep him from growing too 
proud. These things are called Disease and 
Death. Now the first of these we Centaurs 
know nothing of, while as for the other, though 
we cannot live for ever, our natural life is many 
times longer than yours. You see me, Peleus, 
still in the prime of my strength, yet have I seen 
generations of men flourish and fall like the forest 
leaves. Alas ! and I have seen their beauty and 
their strength decay untimely blighted by cruel 
sickness. When I saw this, compassion filled my 
heart, and because I knew that Mother Earth 
brings forth herbs of healing power for her 
children's sake, I set myself to learn them all, 
and to watch how every beast and bird would 
feed thereon, as its nature taught it, when it was 
ailing, that so I might become the physician and 
helper of suffering man. And that, indeed, is 
how I got my name of Chiron, for it means ' He 
with the hands,' and by favour of the gods my 


hands have laid healing on many an aching head 
and many a throbbing wound. Marvel not, then, 
that I have learnt also to love the race of men ; 
do you not know that as soon as you help any 
one, you begin to love him even against your 
will ? " 

As they talked thus together, they came to 
Chiron's dwelling, which was a long and lofty 
cavern near the top of the mountain. Here 
the wise Centaur had been born, and here had 
lived through many generations of mortal men. 
Clematis, with its purple blossoms, and dark 
glossy ivy hung like a rich curtain round the 
doorway, and close to the threshold a spring 
of living water welled from out the rock and 
sent a tiny rivulet across the level greensward, 
where mountain bees were humming over tufts 
of wild thyme. The rays of the sun, already 
drawing westward, lit up the portals of the cave ; 
but far within Peleus could see a dusky, vaulted 
chamber opening into the very heart of the hill. 
Out of those dim recesses two figures, in shape 
like Chiron, came towards him with words of 
kindly greeting ; they were Philyra and Chariclo, 
the mother and wife of the good Centaur. It 
seemed that they had known of his coming, for 
they had dressed him a supper of venison and 
strewed him a soft bed of grass and leaves 
covered with deerskins. At sunset the cave 


was already in darkness, save where a fire of pine 
logs glowed redly in the centre of its rocky floor, 
and the tired youth soon slept as soundly in 
that strange abode as he had ever done in kings' 

Chiron's cave, as he had said, was a lodging 
such as any hunter might desire. Peleus had 
his fill of hunting every day, and the Centaur 
taught him all manner of things that belong 
to woodcraft the ways of all the wild things 
great and small, and the note of every bird, and 
the uses of every plant, and all the signs of 
the weather. Also he trained him skilfully in 
all manly exercises, in running and leaping and 
wrestling and throwing the spear, till he grew 
swift-footed as a stag, and supple-sinewed as 
a wildcat, and strong as a mountain bull. But 
when the dark winter came, and the north wind 
blew bitter cold through the snow-laden pines, 
Chiron had other lessons for his guest as they 
sat before a great fire of logs and fir-cones 
fashioning bows and arrows, or shaping and 
carving cups and platters of beechwood. Then 
he would tell of the brave deeds of famous 
heroes, some of whom he himself had known 
and taught in their youth ; of Jason, whom 
he had brought up in that cavern from a child, 
and how he built the good ship Argo with wood 
from that same forest, and sailed her from lolcos 


far into unknown seas to find the Golden Fleece. 
And of another child, Asclepios, whose mother 
died at his birth, and how he was brought to 
him, like a lost lamb, in the arms of Hermes, 
the kind and merry shepherd-god. Chiron 
thought that the god's touch must have gifted 
that child with his own love for young and 
weakly creatures, for Asclepios would never go 
hunting, but delighted to find and care for baby 
beasts and birds that had strayed or got hurt. 
Of all the Centaur could teach him he loved 
best to learn the art of healing, and at last his 
skill became greater than his master's, and he went 
among the cities of men working such wondrous 
cures that after his death he was honoured as a 
god, and temples were dedicated to him, which 
were the first of all hospitals for the sick. 

So the mind of Peleus was stored with examples 
of noble living, and with the wisdom which long 
experience had taught the good Centaur. Soon 
he grew to love his gentle teacher as a father, 
and to wonder more and more what had made 
him so different from the other Centaurs, who 
sometimes visited the cave, and who knew nothing, 
but lived the life of animals. One day he re- 
minded him that he had never said how he came 
to know what befell in the palace of Acastus. 
" Have you been here so long," said Chiron, 
"and never noticed that I, like all my kindred, 


understand the language of those other children 
of Earth whom you call dumb? The birds of 
the air, I must tell you, are great gossips, and 
the swallows who nest under the palace eaves 
in lolcos hear many things worth repeating to 
their friends the rock-martins, who lodge in the 
crevices of our rocks. But if you are wondering, 
as I think you are, why I alone of the Centaurs 
was not content with lawless, savage ways, but 
desired to learn wisdom and do the will of the 
gods, I will tell you a secret. I am not quite 
the same as the rest of my race, for I have a soul. 
Ah, Peleus, the life of the Centaurs is like the 
life of the forest trees, long and vigorous, but 
it ends at last, and then, like the trees when 
they fall, we sleep for ever in the Jap of Earth. 
Only to me have the gods given an immortal 
soul such as they give to men. And having a 
soul has made me think of many things to which 
the other Centaurs pay no heed." 

" That is very natural," said Peleus. After 
this, he grew even fonder of Chiron, because he 
had a soul, just like himself. And they lived 
happily till spring came to the forest. 

PELEUS 1 1 1 


IN the dim green depths of the sea, where all is 
calm and silent, while winds are howling and 
white waves tossing far above, where winter never 
comes, and strange pale flowers bloom all the 
year round in forests of rainbow-coloured sea- 


weeds, there are as many kingdoms and countries 
as are found upon dry land. 

One of the largest of these countries was ruled 
by the old Sea-King Nereus, and it lay near the 
shores of Greece. Fathoms down below the blue 
southland waters stood the Sea-King's palace, 
built of coral and amber, and roofed with mother- 
of-pearl, and there he dwelt in peace with the fifty 
princesses, his daughters. 

These maidens were of more than earthly 
beauty, but the youngest, whose name was Thetis, 
was the loveliest of them all, and in her childhood 
she was the darling of the rest, who called her 
their little queen. Now Nereus, like all the sea- 
people, was not only immortal, but had the power 
of foreseeing the future, and so, having already 
lived hundreds of years, and possessing this gift 
of prophecy, he had grown exceedingly wise, and 
the gods themselves often sought counsel of him, 
for he knew all that had happened in the past, and 
all that was to come. It befell about the time 


that Peleus went to dwell with Chiron, that the 
god Poseidon came from his own sea-palace to the 
halls of Nereus, desiring some advice, and found 
him feasting in royal state, sitting on a crystal 
throne and waited on by the fifty princesses. The 
ancient King rose up to greet Poseidon, and 
placed him in the seat of honour at his right 
hand, and the beautiful Thetis hastened to serve 
him as cup-bearer. When they had feasted 
enough, the other sisters began a wonderful 
dance, and as they danced they sang ; their dance 
looked like the twisting and untwisting of a rain- 
bow, for they moved in seven bands of seven, and 
the robes of the first seven were violet, of the 
next rose-coloured, and so on. But Thetis, who 
was robed in white, sat meanwhile on a silver 
footstool at her father's feet ; this was her birth- 
day, and the dancers sang their love for her and 
wished her perpetual joy. Poseidon could not 
take his eyes from the lovely sea-princess, and he 
thought, " There is none like her, even among 
the goddesses." The dance ended, and Nereus 
placed a chaplet of fifty pearls on the head of 
Thetis, saying, " Each of my daughters, O Posei- 
don, receives such a coronal as this when she 
grows up to womanhood, and to-day I crown my 
youngest and fairest child. No mortal princess 
had ever so rich a dower, for every pearl is worth 
a king's ransom." 

PELEUS 1 1 3 

" Most wise Nereus," answered Poseidon, " you 
and I know well that all the riches on earth are 
poor compared to the hidden treasures of the 
sea. We know, too, how men will toil and 
suffer and deal wickedly to gain the gold and 
gems which we immortals deem but toys and 
trinkets. Yet I will make bold to say that even 
the most covetous of men, if he might choose, 
would rather wed this maiden than possess her 
crown of pearls." 

" Boldly spoken, indeed," said the Sea-King, 
with a smile. " But enough of this. Be pleased 
to tell me now what you desire of me, if, as I 
think, you came seeking counsel." 

" To tell you what I desire," said Poseidon, " I 
must speak more boldly still." 

" Do so, my guest," answered Nereus. " Plain 
speech and noble thoughts are what all look for 
from Poseidon." 

" I would wed Thetis," said the god, looking 
upon her with his grave blue eyes. " I came 
hither, Nereus, to ask help of your wisdom, as I 
have often come before, but I have seen a sight 
that makes me forget all else. Now, therefore, I 
ask for this your daughter to be my queen." 

" And will you not first ask," said the ancient 
King, " what my counsel is upon this marriage ? 
How if it be destined to work you evil ? " 

But Poseidon tossed his dark head and an- 



swered, " Nay, I will hear no prophecy. Give 
me my desire, and let come what come may." 

" Shall I give my child," then said Nereus, " to 
one so headstrong, who will no more heed a 
warning than the waves whose lord he is ? " 

At these words, Poseidon's eyes sparkled with 
anger, and he rose up, drawing his great stature 
to its full height. " Beware how you refuse me," 
he cried, " or you shall learn that I am lord not 
only of the waves but of all that lies below them. 
Yes, for when Zeus, my brother, took the throne 
of heaven from our father Cronos, he kept for 
himself the realms of sky and earth, but to me, 
his chief helper, he gave dominion over the world 
of waters. Mine are the seas and rivers, and all 
that is therein." 

" It is even as you say," answered Nereus 
calmly, " and we, the ancient people of the sea, 
must own you for overlord, who are of the 
younger and stronger race of the sky-children. 
Yet think not, Poseidon, that you can make us 
afraid. You and your brethren, mighty though 
you are, are not the first world-rulers we have 
seen, nor the last we shall see. Trust me, the 
day will come when your power too shall be 
broken, when you shall plunge into these twilight 
deeps to rise no more and find your last refuge in 
this house of your friends. Grieve not the love we 
bear you, high-hearted son of Cronos, by violent 

PELEUS 1 1 5 

words, but let us part in peace. If, in a year and 
a day, your heart is still set on wedlock with my 
child, then come hither, and you shall have her." 

The proud Poseidon's heart was touched by 
this gentle answer, and his angry mood passed 
away as suddenly as it came. " Farewell then, 
old King," he said, " and farewell maidens all, 
until I come again. Sweetly have you sung in 
praise of Thetis, but sweeter yet will sound your 
voices in the joyous bridal-song." 

So saying, he went his way to his own palace 
under the waves. 

Now because, as Nereus said, Poseidon was one 
of the sky-children, he came often to the councils 
and the feasts that Zeus held with the other Im- 
mortals in the heavenly halls. Not long after 
this, it chanced that, while the gods were gathered 
at their banquet, they began to debate, Who was 
the fairest among the goddesses ? Some said, 
Hera, and some, Athena, and some, Aphrodite, 
but Poseidon kept silence. Then said Zeus, 
" Brother, you alone have not spoken. For whom 
will you give your voice ? " 

" For none here," answered Poseidon, " and 
therefore have I held my peace. But if Thetis, 
daughter of Nereus, were to rise from the sea 
and come among you, your debate were quickly 
ended. Neither in earth nor heaven is there 
beauty like hers." 


The goddesses heard these words with great 
disdain, and the gods smiled to hear the unknown 
sea-maiden preferred to the Queen of Heaven 
and the Queen of Love. But Zeus was more 
ready to believe his brother, and he asked where 
this wonder might be seen. Poseidon told him 
that the Sea-King's daughters came up on moon- 
light nights to play and dance upon the shore. 
" If you would see them," he said, " take the 
form of some bird, or one of the seals that sleep 
among the rocks for if they catch sight of man 
or god watching them, they dive at once beneath 
the waves." Poseidon said nothing of his love 
for Thetis, and in his eagerness for Zeus to see 
her loveliness he forgot that it might win the 
heart of his mighty brother. 

But the very next moonlight night Zeus took 
the form of a sea-eagle, and perched upon a rock 
as though asleep, and while he watched Thetis 
dancing with her sisters, her beauty cast a spell 
upon him, even as it had done upon Poseidon. 

He, the King of gods and men, sat musing and 
silent when the Immortals were gathered again 
around his table, until the haughty, jealous Hera 
began to taunt him with scornful words, asking 
him if he had also seen the sea-witch (for so she 
called Thetis), and been made dumb by her 

" I have seen the daughter of Nereus," he 


answered, " and little need, proud Queen, has she 
of witchcraft, for she is yet fairer than Poseidon 
told us. Neither the Evening nor the Morning 
Star is so beautiful." 

" Make her your Queen, then," cried the angry 
goddess. " No longer will I be called the wife of 
Zeus, who affronts me to my face. No, I will go 
down to Earth, I will journey to the land beyond 
the sunset and dwell with old Cronos, our ban- 
ished father, and you, usurper as you are, may 
share the throne of heaven with what upstart 
you please. O, a glorious bride, truly, will you 
set in Hera's royal chair ! Green eyes, has she 
not, and a fish's tail ? " 

Hera knew quite well that the sea-princesses 
had no tails (except the mermaids in the north, 
who belong to a different family), but she wished 
to say as many unpleasant things as she could. 
Now what was the grief and anger of Poseidon, 
when Zeus, instead of soothing Hera, as he often 
did, answered sternly, " Your will shall be done, 
wayward goddess ! Bear witness, all who hear 
me, that Hera is my wife no more. To-morrow 
shall see another Queen in heaven, fairer, ay, and 
more gentle than this troubler of our peace." 

" Nay, O King," cried Poseidon, " this must 
not be. The daughter of Nereus is my promised 

But when he told how Nereus had promised to 


give him Thetis, if he asked for her in a year 
and a day, Zeus smiled and said, " My simple 
brother, the Ancient of the Sea, who knows the 
future, knew that you would not come back in 
a year and a day, because ere then Thetis will 
wed another. Do you not see how easily he 
beguiled you ? " 

" Bitterly shall he rue it, then," said Poseidon, 
" yet why should he deceive me ? Besides, he 
said something of evil threatening from the 
marriage, and it comes into my mind that he 
would have given me his daughter with good 
will, but for that very reason." 

"What evil might that be?" asked Zeus. 

"I cared not to learn it," answered Poseidon, 
recklessly, " for be it what it may, it shall not 
turn me from my purpose. Thetis is mine, I 
say, by her father's promise, and not even you, 
King of us all, shall take her from me." 

Zeus made no answer, but his brow grew black 
as the storm-cloud, and the glance he darted 
upon his brother was more dreadful to behold 
than the red lightning. Poseidon, who flinched 
not under that awful gaze, which no one else 
ever dared to meet, flashed back a look of deadly 
rage, while even Hera sat overawed, and the rest 
watched afFrightedly the faces of those two great 
brethren, in silence deep as the hush before it 
thunders. All at once in the tense stillness, the 

PELEUS 1 1 9 

sound of trailing garments was heard without, 
and there glided into the hall a veiled figure, 
clad in white. Slowly she moved towards the 
throne of Zeus, and stood between the angry 
gods, and stretched out a hand to each. Then, 
with one mind, all the Immortals rose up in 
reverence ; Zeus himself took the newcomer by 
the hand, and seated her beside him on the throne. 
"Too seldom, holy goddess, do you visit us," 
he said, " welcome now and always, whatever be 
your errand. Have you seen some law broken> 
or some injustice done in the cities of men, that 
you come veiled among us, as if in sorrow ? " 

This he said, because that goddess, whose name 
was Themis, was the guardian of justice and of 
upright dealing, and was honoured in every city, 
but her pure eyes could not behold iniquity, and 
she veiled her face from the sight of wrong- 
doing. She was, moreover, a very ancient goddess, 
and had received from Earth, her mother, the 
gift of prophecy and the knowledge of hidden 

She now threw back her veil, and turned her 
calm sad gaze from one to other of the still 
frowning brother-gods. " It is not by men," she 
said, " that the invisible altar of Justice has been 
spurned this very hour. The sky, O Zeus, has 
darkened at your frown ; the sea, O Poseidon, 
has risen in tempest at your furious voice, and 


trembling mortals have wondered for what im- 
piety the gods are wroth. But it is you, their 
judges and avengers, who are now transgressing 
the sacred laws of righteousness. Shall it be told 
among the kings of the earth, that the King of 
the gods put away his wife for a passionate word, 
and used his power to take the bride promised 
to his brother ? Or shall it be sung among the 
noble deeds of Poseidon that he defied his King 
and brother, whom he had sworn to obey as 
supreme ? Cease this unhallowed strife, O sons 
of Cronos, and turn away your minds from the 
daughter of Nereus, for were she ten times 
fairer than she is, you would not wed her, if you 
could read her fate." 

With downcast eyes those high gods listened 
to the rebuke of Themis, and they answered her 
never a word. Then she rose up to depart, but 
they both prayed her to tell them first what that 
fate was, of which she spoke, promising that they 
would strive no more, but draw lots who should 
wed the sea-maiden, if they still desired her when 
they knew all. 

" It is ordained," said the wise goddess, " that 
the son of Thetis shall be mightier than his 
father. This is the peril of which Nereus would 
fain have warned Poseidon. For, if one of the 
greater gods marry her, the son born to them 
must be so powerful that he may make himself 

PELEUS 1 2 1 

lord of heaven and earth ; his strength will be 
irresistible, and he will wield some weapon more 
terrible than Poseidon's earth-splitting trident or 
the thunderbolts of Zeus. Easily would that new 
god overthrow you all." 

When the two gods heard this, they took an 
oath not to marry Thetis, although Poseidon 
declared at first that he would not give her up, 
come what might. But Themis bade him re- 
member that the son born to him would be a 
danger not to himself alone, but to all the sky- 
children, his kindred, so for their sakes he yielded. 
Then said Zeus, " What if some other Immortal, 
perchance one of the Earth-born Giants, our 
ancient foes, should wed the sea-maiden, and rear 
a son to overthrow us ? " 

" Lest that should come to pass,"said Themis, 
" let her be given in marriage to a mortal, then 
will her child be mortal also. Let the Sea-King's 
daughter endure the lot of a woman, mingled of 
joy and sorrow, and look at last on a son fallen 
in battle." 

"Lady of good counsels," said Zeus, "say 
further, on whom shall we bestow such a 
bride ? " 

" There is a king's son called Peleus," answered 
the wise goddess, " who dwelt of late in lolcos, 
and won the praise of all for his upright life. 
You, O Zeus, know well that the praise was just, 


and already you have been his protector in peril. 
Now, if it seems good to you, you may reward 
him as he deserves." 

"It pleases me well," said Zeus; "I have not 
forgotten that brave youth, nor how Acastus 
would have destroyed him by treachery. My 
purpose was to give him a sure refuge with 
Chiron until the time came for him to avenge 
the evil deed of the godless King, who dared to 
break the law of host and guest. Even now he 
would slay Peleus if he could find him, so bitter 
is the grudge he bears him. But for this while 
we will let him alone ; soon enough will he pay 
one price for all." 

" So let it be," said Themis ; " and now, King 
of gods, send Hermes with all speed to Chiron's 
cave. The wise Centaur, when he hears the 
tidings, will teach Peleus how to win the sea- 
maiden, and make all things ready for her 

Straightway Hermes put on his shining sandals, 
which bear him dryshod over sea and land, and 
departed with his message. The song of birds 
was loud in the woods of Pelion as the god drew 
near to the Centaur's cave, and the ground he 
trod was carpeted with crocus and violets, and 
the scarlet wind-flower, for it was now the spring- 
tide. Peleus sat with Chiron in the cavern door- 
way, and saw one coming towards them through 


a sunny glade. He thought it was some shep- 
herd lad of the hills, for his eyes were holden, 
that he might not know the god, but the Centaur 
knew him, and said, " Hail, friend ! What may 
be your errand here ? ' : 

" It is for your ear only," said Hermes. 

Then Peleus said : " It is full time, O Chiron, 
that I went hunting again. I will go in chase 
of roebuck or wild kid to feast your guest 
withal ; '" and so took his weapons and hastened 
forth. At evening he returned, bringing venison, 
but the stranger was gone ; nor did Chiron speak 
of him ; wherefore Peleus asked no questions, 
having learned the best of manners from the 
good Centaur. 

Next morning Chiron said to him, " I bethink 
me, Peleus, that I need the juice of a certain 
flower, for a salve that I am making. Do me 
the favour to bring me some of it." 

"Willingly," said Peleus; "only tell me what 
is the flower and where it grows." 

" It is the yellow sea-poppy," Chiron answered, 
" and you will find it blowing on the sea-shore, 
not many leagues from here. But, to be of any 
virtue, it must be gathered by moonlight." 

" That is easily done," said Peleus. " The 
moon to-night will be almost full. At sunset 
I will go down to the sea and gather your poppies 
while she shines upon them." 


So Peleus went down the mountain slopes at 
evening time, and came upon the cliffs above the 
sea, and saw the waves break glimmering in the 
dusk below. Then he sat down and waited till 
the moon should give him light to find a path 
down to the beach, and, being wearied, he fell 
asleep. When he awoke the world was flooded 
with silver radiance, and, through the warm, still 
air of the May night, the sound of clear voices 
singing came mingled with the murmur of the 
sea. He sprang to his feet, and leapt down the 
rocks from ledge to ledge, drawn by the magic 
of that entrancing song. And then, as he reached 
the shore, he saw the singers, and stood spell- 
bound with wonder and delight. The daughters 
of Nereus were dancing in maiden mirth on the 
level sands, not clad now in rainbow-coloured 
robes, but covered only by their floating hair. 
Faster and faster flew their little feet, twinkling 
in the moonlight as if slippered with tinsel, and 
all the while their shrill sweet song rose up like 
the singing of a thousand larks. Peleus could 
have looked and listened for ever, but all too 
soon one of the sea-maidens, who seemed to lead 
the dance, passing close beside him, turned her 
head and looked him in the face. Only for an 
instant he looked into her deep eyes, in colour 
like the violet shadows on a sunny sea, then, with 
a startled cry, she turned and fled into the waves. 


"Away! away!' cried all the sisters, and, like 
a flock of white sea-birds, the whole company 
scurried into the moonlit waters and dived out 
of sight. 

Peleus forgot all about the yellow poppies ; 
slowly and sadly he went back up the mountain- 
side, and came to his cavern home in the grey 
dawn, and told the good Centaur what he had 
seen. " O Chiron," he said, " unless your wisdom 
can help me, I am a lost man from this hour. 
That song I heard is yet ringing in my ears, and 
the eyes of that sea-maiden who looked me in the 
face will give me no rest until I see them again. 
Tell me how I may approach her and not be seen, 
for the longing I have to behold her is like a 
sword in my heart." 

"Such pain," said Chiron gently, "must all 
endure, who, being mortal, look on immortal 
beauty face to face. Know, Peleus, that she of 
whom you speak is the youngest and fairest of 
the daughters of Nereus, the aged Sea-King. 
Her father named her Thetis, which means 
' Spell-Maiden,' because he knew she would 
cast a spell of longing upon gods and men. 
Now, unless you break that spell, you will pine 
away and die, like the luckless sailors who come 
to the Isle of the Sirens and listen to their 
singing. But I will tell you what you must 
do. Before moonrise to-night hide yourself 


behind some rock upon the shore, and, when 
the sea-maidens come, watch until Thetis is so 
near you that you can seize her in your arms. 
Then hold her fast until she speaks to you, for 
when she speaks the spell will break. Remember 
that the sea-people have many strange powers, 
but beware, whatever happens, that you do not 
let her go." 

Peleus did as Chiron bade him, and, as Thetis 
went dancing by, he sprang out from his rock and 
threw his arms about her. Again, at her sudden 
cry, did all the other sisters flounce into the 
waves, never pausing in their flight till they 
reached their father's hall. But this time the 
youngest sister came not home with the rest. 
Peleus felt the sea-maiden tremble for a moment 
in his strong arms, and then she began to struggle 
with such violence that he marvelled at the force 
of her slender body. "Speak to me, Thetis," he 
cried, "speak but one word, and I will let you 
go." But Thetis only struggled the more 
wildly. Silently then they wrestled together 
in the moonlight, until Peleus began to feel 
his strength go from him, and his breath came 
thick and fast. The white limbs of the sea- 
maiden seemed to grow colder and colder to 
his touch, so that a shiver ran through him, and 
he closed his eyes, still clinging desperately to 
her writhing form. And then, with horror, he 


felt that form as it were melting in his grasp ; 
he looked again at what he held, and it was no 
maiden, but a great sea-snake, ringed with green 
and purple, coiling this way and that to twist 
itself free. Only its eyes were the eyes of Thetis, 
and, seeing them, he gripped the creature still 
closer, though his heart stood still with terror. 
There came a cloud across the face of the moon, 
and in the dark those eyes seemed turning into 
balls of pale green fire. His hands no longer 
clutched the slippery coils of a serpent, but 
something furry and sleek ; the moon breaking 
from the cloud showed him the form of a black 
panther. Yet his heart did not wholly fail him, 
though the panther snarled fearsomely and drove 
its sharp claws into his side. As blood-drops 
from the wound fell on the panther's glossy fur, 
Peleus could feel it tremble ; for one instant it 
lay still in his arms, and in that instant he cried 
once more, " Speak to me, Thetis ! " but now it 
gave a spring that well-nigh made him lose his 
hold, and he tripped over a stone and fell head- 
long. Furiously struggled the panting beast as 
they rolled upon the sand, hither and thither it 
dragged him while still he held on grimly, setting 
his teeth and straining every muscle in a last 
despairing effort. Its form seemed to swell and 
change colour before his failing eyes ; surely now 
it was a huge tawny thing he fought with, and 


his fingers were locked in a shaggy mane ! All 
at once the hollow roar of a lion rent the silence ; 
he saw its gleaming fangs and felt them fasten on 
his arm. " This is the end of me," he thought, 
but he would not let go. Gathering all his 
strength he seized it by the throat with his 
other hand, to strangle it if he could. The 
lion, half-throttled, shook its mighty head, and 
bounded madly towards the water's edge, carrying 
Peleus along with it. He lost his footing again 
on a seaweed-covered rock, and, falling heavily, 
lay there stunned. 

When he came to himself, his face was wet 
with sea-water ; the moon was down, and at first 
he could only see that a shadowy form crouched 
near. Still dazed, he sat up, and lifted his arm 
to look at something, long and brown and lustrous, 
in his clenched hand. Was it a lock of the lion's 
mane, or a ribbon of sea-weed ? " You are pulling 
my hair," said a soft voice close by, and at that 
sound Peleus burst into tears of joy. 

The sun had risen out of the eastern sea, but 
the dew lay yet in myriads of diamond drops 
upon the upland lawns, when Peleus and Thetis, 
hand in hand, began to climb the mountain path 
that led across them into the green forest. They 
had sat till daybreak by the grey lapping waves, 
for when the spell was broken, it seemed that the 
Sea-King's daughter had many things to say to 


the mortal who had conquered her. She told 
him how her people have the power, if any take 
them captive, of changing their shape three times, 
but if they fail to break free in the third shape, 
they must return to their own ; and how, when 
she quitted the form of a lion, she had thought 
to plunge into the sea, but could not because, in 
his swoon, his hand was still clenched upon her 
hair. And how, even as she wounded him in her 
struggle, a strange new anguish came upon her at 
the sight of his blood, so that she longed to speak, 
but the wild sea-nature in her locked her lips. 

"Then, Peleus," she said, "as I watched you 
lying there so pale, with shut eyes, I thought, 
' This is death, of which I have heard tell, but 
never saw till now,' and it seemed to me so cruel 
a thing to die, and look no more upon the sun- 
light, that I, who had never wept, shed bitter 
tears upon your face." 

" Was it your tears I felt ? "' said Peleus, " and 
not the salt sea-spray ? O Thetis, may they be 
the last, as they were the first, to fall from your 
eyes." But, alas! they were not the last, nor the 
most bitter. 

Now, as they talked together, k was as if they 
had known each other always, and now were met 
again after long absence, such joy they had in 
the sight and speech of one another. And when 
Peleus said, " I can never leave you again, Thetis," 



she answered, " There is no need, for I am happier 
with you than I have ever been before." " Come 
then," said he, " I will bring you to the cave of 
the good Centaur, who is to me as a father." 
And he told how Chiron had saved his life from 
the men of King Acastus, and all else that he had 
done for him. " But now," he said, " I owe 
Chiron my life twice over, for had he not sent 
me to gather sea-poppies, I might never have seen 
you, and had he not counselled me to hold you 
fast whatever befell, surely I must have let you go, 
and then my heart would have gone with you under 
the sea, and I have perished in my despair." 

Thetis smiled, and as they left the beach, she 
stooped and gathered a handful of the yellow 
poppies, saying, " Let me bring these flowers to 
Chiron, since it was through me that you went 
back to him empty-handed." 

So they went on together into the heart of the 
forest, and ever as they went, the sea-maiden 
looked about her and cried out for pleasure like 
a child at the wonderful new things she saw, and 
the new music that she heard among the boughs. 
She thought, indeed, that it was the trees she 
heard singing ; for though she could see the birds 
flit through the branches, she did not know they 
were not dumb, like the flocks of painted fishes 
that hovered among the coral groves of her own 
garden. She wondered, too, that the wild flowers 


would not uncurl their petals when she stroked 
them, like the sea-anemones, and because nothing 
has any scent under the sea, the wood-violets and 
little wild hyacinths puzzled her very much. " I 
think these flowers at least can sing," she said to 
Peleus, " although you say the trees cannot, for 
something comes from them like strange soft 
music, only, instead of hearing it, I seem to 
breathe it." 

The only thing that did not surprise her filled 
Peleus in his turn with great wonder ; every bird 
and beast would come to her when she called it, 
ringdoves and woodpeckers came fluttering round 
her, the baby rabbits scuttled to her feet, and even 
the busy squirrels hurried down from the tree- 
tops to look at her with wise bright eyes. " Little 
brother " or " little sister " she called them all, for 
she knew none of their names, till Peleus told 
her. At noon they rested, and drank of a spring 
that flowed from under a mossy rock, and in an 
oak hard by, where bees were coming and going, 
Peleus found a great store of honey, and Thetis 
thought the honeycomb more delicious fare than 
the food of the gods. 

Towards evening they came to the cave, and 
the Centaur met them upon the threshold. 
" This is the Sea-King's daughter, O Chiron," 
said Peleus, " and she has brought you the yellow 


" That is well, my son," said the Centaur, with 
his grave, kind smile, " for I see that you have 
need of the salve which I was preparing for you." 
And at these words the sea-maiden looked at the 
wounded arm of Peleus, and hid her face in her 
hands. But Chiron laid his hand on her bent 
head and asked her, " Are you content, daughter 
of Nereus, to abide with this mortal, whom you 
have followed hither ? '' Then she looked up 
and said, " I am content. Where he dwells, I 
will dwell, and where he goes, I will go. Though 
he is a mortal man, and must bear the lot of men, 
will not the high gods be gracious to one who is 
fair and noble as themselves ? " 

"The gods," answered Chiron, "are well 
pleased, O Thetis, that you should wed this 
youth, for they desire to honour him to the 
utmost, because he has been found faithful and 
true of heart. Nay, more, it is their pleasure to 
come as guests to your marriage-feast, and ere 
long they will be here. It is the night of the full 
moon, and happiest are the bridals on which she 
looks down in all her splendour. Come within, 
my children ; the sun sinks apace, and Philyra 
and Chariclo wait to array the bride." 

Then they went in, and saw that Chiron had 
made ready a great feast, and they marvelled at 
his foreseeing of what had befallen. As the sun 
set behind the hills, dim shapes began to move 


rustling through the silent woods, and the lights 
of pine-torches twinkled in the gloom of leaf- 
canopied aisles. Peleus, whose tired limbs Chiron 
had bathed and anointed with the healing balm, 
came to the doorway, and looked forth into the 
gathering dusk. He saw the lights, which drew 
slowly nearer, and heard a noise as of a herd of 
deer pattering over the fallen leaves, and above 
it the sound of wild, sweet music. Soon he was 
aware of a strange company coming towards him, 
with torches and with garlands, playing on pipes 
of reed, and dancing as they came. It was a 
troop of Fauns, he knew, for he had once or 
twice caught sight in the forest of one of those 
shy creatures, like a beautiful sunburnt boy, but 
goat-footed, and with curved horns peeping out 
from the curls on his brow. And now, from the 
grey stems of the great trees around came gliding 
the tree-fairies, the lovely Dryads, one of whom 
dwelt in every tree, and had her life bound up 
with its life, so that when it fell she was no more. 
There came also, following the piping of the 
Fauns, whatever beast or bird is awake by night : 
owls with solemn eyes, and prowling foxes, and a 
wolf with her cubs, and a lion, that rolled at 
Peleus' feet like a great dog. When all were 
gathered about the cavern-door, the first beams 
of the May moon lit up the open space before it 
as she rose above the tree-tops. Then suddenly 


the air was filled with melody so divine that the 
Fauns played no more, but threw down their 
pipes and listened with awe-struck faces. Louder 
grew the strain, as of harps and voices mingled, 
and now through the clear heaven above rolled 
a peal of thunder, and a trembling shook the 
ground, while a great voice cried aloud, "We 
are come, O Chiron, to the marriage of the Sea- 
King's daughter." At that voice the Fauns and 
Dryads bowed themselves to the ground, and 
Peleus also. He heard the Centaur answer from 
the threshold, " Hail, Lords of heaven and sea, 
enter this my dwelling, for all things are ready," 
and lifting up his eyes, he saw before him a 
throng of bright-robed forms, and in the midst 
of them two kings, glorious to look upon. These 
cast gracious glances on him as they passed into 
the cave, while the celestial chant rang out again 
from the lips of their followers, mingled with the 
clear harmonies of the golden lyre that one 
among them played upon. Last of that company 
came that same shepherd lad whom Peleus had 
seen three days ago, but now transfigured by the 
bloom and radiance of a god, so that he knew 
him to be Hermes. The messenger of the Im- 
mortals now took him by the hand, bidding him 
hail, and they went in together after the rest. 
The great and lofty cavern-chamber was ablaze 
with torchlights, and the heavenly guests were 


seated in a half-circle on the rock-hewn bench 
that ran round its upper end, tables covered with 
all manner of woodland fare being set before 
them. In the highest place, between Zeus and 
Poseidon, sat the Sea-King's daughter, veiled 
with a veil of silvery sheen ; it was woven out of 
gossamer and moonbeams by the forest spiders, 
who weave all the robes for the Dryads. 
Hermes led Peleus through the hall and placed 
him beside her, while all the Immortals gave him 
greeting in joyous tones. And now the feast 
went forward with mirth and laughter and re- 
joicing, and the gods praised Chiron's good cheer, 
the venison and oaten cakes and mountain-honey, 
and drank the wine he poured for them into the 
carved beechwood bowls. Peleus was glad to 
see that the good Centaur had made the forest 
guests welcome also ; the Fauns were feasting 
merrily, couched on deerskins at the lower end of 
the cavern, and all the beasts and birds had their 
share of such food as they liked best. As for the 
Dryads, they ate only honey, and drank a wine 
that the Centaur had brewed from elder-blossom. 
When all had their fill of banqueting, Apollo took 
up his lyre and played, while the violet-crowned 
Muses rose up and sang together. First they sang 
the praise of Zeus their father, lord of all, and 
next of the lovely bride, the pearl of the sea, whom 
the gods had bestowed on Peleus for his exceed- 


ing great reward. The youth blushed deeply as 
he listened, for now they told of his coming to 
the house of Acastus, the false Queen's love for 
him, and how he was faithful to the King, his 
host. Then, as Apollo struck a deeper chord 
from the pealing lyre, his own voice began to 
lead the choral song, chanting words of prophecy. 
For he, the minstrel of the gods, is also their 
seer, having received from Themis herself that 
gift of divining which Earth, her mother, gave 
her. So now, with wide eyes gazing before him, 
as though he saw a vision, the god sang thus of 
the days to come. A wondrous child, the son of 
Peleus and Thetis, shall be reared in this cave by 
Chiron s fostering care. That child, even from six 
summers old, shall hurl his small javelin with true 
aim and godlike strength at bear and lion that prowl 
near the cavern s mouth, and drag their still panting 
carcases to the Centaur s feet. And Artemis, 
goddess of the chase, and valiant Athena, will come 
many a time to watch unseen those feats of the little 
hunter. But when the boy, trained and taught by the 
wise Centaur in all noble ways, comes to the prime of 
his glorious youth, then, in the company of princely 
warriors, he shall cross the seas and do battle with 
mailed hosts beneath the walls of a far city, and win 
himself an everlasting name. For, ages after that city 
has fallen amid flames and slaughter, the lips of a 
mortal minstrel, poor and blind, will sing the deeds of 


the son of Thetis in such a deathless lay that his 
memory shall endure till the end of time. 

The song ceased, and all who heard it sat 
awhile in silence, musing on that prophecy. 
Then Zeus arose, and said, " The song of 
Apollo is his marriage- gift to Peleus and to 
Thetis ; now will I declare what is mine. Peleus, 
in the strength I will give him, shall overthrow 
with his single spear Acastus and all his soldiery, 
and reign as king in his stead. Moreover, to him 
and his children's children I will give wide king- 
doms in other lands of Greece." 

Then said Poseidon, " And I will make Thetis 
queen of the coasts and headlands and all the bays 
around them, where this land borders on the seas 
of her ancient home, so shall she return as a great 
princess, when she visits her father Nereus." 

The rest of the gods also made promise of gifts, 
and each of the goddesses decked the Sea-King's 
daughter with a golden necklace or girdle or 
bracelet of her own, wrought by the cunning 
hand of Hephaestus, the divine craftsman. It 
was now midnight, and the torches began to burn 
low in the vaulted chamber ; once more Apollo's 
lyre was heard, but now he played a stately 
marching measure, and all the guests passed 
singing together out of the cavern. Peleus and 
Thetis rose up and followed them into the moon- 
light, for Chiron said, " Go now, my children, 


with those who will lead you to the home pre- 
pared for you." Now when they came forth 
upon the lawn, the heaven-dwelling gods were 
gone ; only the Fauns, with relighted torches, 
and the Dryads, with hands full of flowers, 
thronged about them with laughter and with 
greetings. And so, led by the forest people, to 
the sound of their sweet wild pipings, they went 
together into the green heart of the woods. 
The owls hooted softly overhead as they went 
along, and the wolf cubs trotted beside them, till 
they came to the hunting-lodge which Peleus 
had built for himself of unbarked fir-logs, and 
thatched with reeds and moss. The door stood 
open, and they saw a wood-fire burning on the 
hearth within. Then, because he knew that a 
bride must not set foot upon the door-sill when 
she is brought home, Peleus lifted the Sea-King's 
daughter across the threshold in his arms, and 
they two were left alone. 


IT was summer once again in the green forest, 
when Chiron lay one evening in the doorway of 
his cave, thinking of the young, beloved guest 
who housed with him so long. He had seen 
Peleus no more since his marriage-night ; but he 
had heard how King Acastus had sought for him 


far and near to take his life, and how vengeance 
overtook that persecutor at last. For, according 
to the sure promise of Zeus, Peleus had gone 
down alone to lolcos and taken it single-handed, 
putting to rout the King and all his host with no 
helper but his own good spear. Now he slew 
Acastus in the fight, and when the wicked Queen 
Hippolyta saw what was done, she hanged herself. 
So Peleus was lord of the city, but he loathed it 
when he thought on the end of those two. There- 
fore, he sent for valiant princes, his friends, out 
of the north country, and gave them the city to 
dwell in, and himself went to that country and 
ruled it in their stead. And there, as Chiron heard, 
he built a fair palace by the sea for the daughter 
of Nereus. 

While the old Centaur was thus musing in the 
twilight, Peleus himself came softly over the 
mossy turf and stood beside him. But Chiron, 
wrapped in thought, neither saw nor heard his 
coming. Then Peleus gently laid a bundle, rolled 
in a purple cloak, at his friend's feet, and a tiny 
cry came from the bundle. At that Chiron started 
up, and saw who was come to him, and he gave 
Peleus loving greeting. " My son," he said, 
" often have I longed to see your face again, and 
even now I was thinking of you. But what cry 
did I hear at hand, like the cry of a motherless 
lamb ? Alas, why weep you at these words ? ' 


" O Chiron," said Peleus, " it is indeed a mother- 
less lamb I bring you," and he unrolled the cloak 
and put a yellow-haired babe into the Centaur's 
arms. " Take my little son," he said, " and be 
tender to him, with the tenderness you show to 
every helpless thing, for there is none to rear him 
in my desolate house." And for very grief he 
could say no more. But the babe, who was beau- 
tiful as the day, looked into Chiron's wise old face 
and smiled, and Chiron said, " See, already he is 
without fear, this child who is to be so great a 
warrior." Then he called Philyra and Chariclo, 
those gentle nurses of many a hero, and gave the 
babe into their keeping ; but he himself made 
ready supper for Peleus without more words, for 
he saw that his sorrow was great. Nor did he 
ask him any more questions till he had cheered 
him with food and wine, and they were sitting 
together, as of old, beside the hearth. Then, 
laying his hand on the young man's shoulder, he 
said, " Will you not tell me now, my son, what 
this sorrow is, which I can but guess at, that if I 
cannot help you, at least I may strive to comfort 
you ? " " Little I thought," said Peleus, " when 
I left this cave the happiest of mortals, that ever 
I should come back with such tidings as I must 
tell you now. The daughter of Nereus has for- 
saken me and our child, and gone back to the 
Sea-King's halls. She told me at the beginning that 


- -5 
,~ -5 




she must leave me for ever the first time I crossed 
her in anything, for such, she said, is the way of 
all the sea-people. And when the babe was born, 
I woke one night and saw her steal out of our 
chamber carrying it in her arms, and I followed 
her, to see what she would do. She went into the 
hall, where the fire still burned on the hearth, and 
there, horror-stricken, I saw her thrust the child 
into the glowing embers. Who could see that 
and not do as I did ? Yet the reproachful look 
Thetis gave me, as I snatched the babe from her, 
pierced me to the soul. ' Did I not warn you,' 
she said, ' never to cross me ? Had you not hin- 
dered, I would have made the child weapon-proof 
from head to heel by the power of flame. But I 
must leave that work undone. Farewell, fare- 
well ! ' With that, quick as a lightning-flash, 
she darted from the hall and from the palace, 
and flung herself into the sea." 

Chiron listened without wonder to this strange 
story, for he knew both the nature of the sea- 
people and the magic they can work. " Be com- 
forted, Peleus," he said ; " remember how Apollo 
prophesied in his song that your son should be 
reared in this cave of mine ; it was fated, then, 
that his mother should thus leave him. And 
though Thetis is lost to you now, yet if you wait 
patiently, sure I am that she will come to you 
again at last, never to leave you more. For 


happiness must come, in the end, of bridals which 
the high gods blest with their presence." 

The kindly Centaur's words soothed the grief 
of Peleus, and brought him new hope. " I will 
be patient," he said ; " and as for the child, I 
remembered the song of Apollo, and it lightened 
my heart a little to think of his growing up in 
your care, my wise and tender teacher. But tell 
me now, why Thetis said her work was not finished, 
and by what magic the babe passed unhurt through 
the flame ? " 

" Fire has no power on the bodies of the 
Immortals," said Chiron, " nor or on any living 
thing, so long as an Immortal has hold of it. So 
the babe was safe while Thetis held it, and its 
flesh is weapon-proof wherever the flame touched 
it, for what fire does not burn, it makes unwound- 
able. But to finish her work, Thetis must have 
plunged the child into the fire a second time, 
because where her hand grasped it, there the flame 
could not reach." 

" She held it by one heei," said Peleus. 

" That heel, then," said the Centaur, " is the 
one spot where your son can be wounded." 

Thus they talked together till far into the 
night, and on the morrow Peleus departed to his 
own home. At his going, Chiron asked him what 
he should call his son, and he said, " Achilles is 
the name his mother gave him." 


The little Achilles was the fairest and the most 
bold-hearted of all the good Centaur's foster- 
children, and soon was dearer to him than even 
the beautiful Jason had been, or Asclepios the 
healer. In his very babyhood, he began to love 
the hunter's sport not less than Peleus his father 
did, and his first plaything was a little bow and 
arrow that he begged for as soon as he could 
speak. With these he would shoot from the 
doorway of the cave at prowling wolf or bear, 
but when he was six summers old, he could not 
be content till Chiron gave him leave to go hunt- 
ing in the forest. And that day another prophecy 
was fulfilled, for at sunset the Centaur, looking 
forth from the cavern, saw the little boy running 
towards him, dragging the still panting carcase of 
a huge wild boar, and he saw too, though Achilles 
could not, two stately forms moving beside him. 
One was clad in shining armour, with a golden 
helm upon her golden hair, and a great spear in 
her hand ; the other, still taller, and slender as 
a young poplar, wore the short garb and leathern 
buskins of a hunter, and carried a silver bow. It 
was the great Athena, and Artemis, the Lady of 
the Wild Things, who walked, smiling, beside the 
marvellous child, and not then only, but through 
all his boyhood, they loved to watch his daring, 
and his strength like a young god's. 

Now Chiron taught Achilles all his precepts 


of wisdom, and the perfect ways of honour and 
courtesy, but warrior-skill and hunting-craft he 
had no need to teach him, for they were his by 
nature. So swift of foot was he, that he could 
run down the hart and the roebuck ; so strong, that 
he could take bison and boar alive, without help 
of hounds or hunting-nets. And though he had 
seen no weapon but bow and spear, of those he 
had such mastery from his infant days, that 
Chiron knew no warrior could stand against him. 
So the years went by, until Chiron heard from 
the birds, his newsbringers, that a great war was 
toward, for a king in the South was gathering a 
mighty host to sail against a distant city. And 
Troy, the birds told him, was the city's name. 
When Chiron heard that, he called Achilles to 
him, and said, " My child, it was in this cave that 
your mother's marriage feast was held, and all 
the gods came to it, to bless the bridals, and 
bright Apollo uttered in song the destiny that 
was in store for you. I see now the beginning 
of those things which he foretold, and the time is 
come for you to return to your father's house, 
that you may go the way Fate has prepared for 
those swift feet of yours. Farewell, last and 
dearest of my fosterlings; I know that I must 
see your face no more, and yet I cannot grieve 
at your departing, when I remember Apollo's 
prophecy and the glory that you are so soon 


to win." Thus he took leave of the youth, and 
sent him away that same hour to Phthia, the 
country of Peleus in the North. Achilles found 
his father dwelling in the palace by the sea, 
which he had called the House of Thetis, in 
honour of his bride. Peleus beheld him with 
joy, and said, " Welcome, my beloved son ; I 
know you are come at the good Centaur's bidding, 
for he promised me long ago to send you home 
to me when the right time came." 

Now Thetis had learnt from Nereus, who could 
foresee it all, what her child's doom must be, if 
ever he went to war, and when the old Sea-King 
told her that messengers were even then on their 
way to seek him in the house of Peleus, and 
summon him to the gathering of princes against 
Troy, she resolved to prevent them. She rose 
up through the sea that night, and glided silently 
to the bedside of Achilles, and carried him away 
in his sleep to an island called Scyros. So, when 
he awoke, behold he was lying on an unknown 
shore, and saw a strange and beautiful lady bend- 
ing over him. Then Thetis made herself known 
to her son, and prayed him, if he had any love 
for his mother, to do what she would now bid 
him without questioning, for if he would not, 
she said with tears, a grievous thing must befall 
her. And Achilles promised to obey her, re- 
membering the teaching of Chiron, how he said 



that next to the immortal gods, father and 
mother must be reverenced. Forthwith Thetis 
dressed the youth in a broidered robe, and when 
she had combed out his long fair hair with a 
comb of pearl, he seemed a tall blooming maiden. 
"I will bring you now," she said, "to the king 
of this isle, who is a friend to me and my 
people, and will say to him that you are a maid 
I have saved from shipwreck. At my request, 
he will lodge you for a while with the princess, 
his daughter, and do you, for my sake, take 
heed that no one discovers you are not what 
you seem." 

So she brought him to the king's house, and 
he became the loved companion of the young 
princess and her maidens ; and in their games, 
the new playmate was always winner, but in 
weaving and spinning was so clumsy that they 
made great sport of her. 

But the day after Thetis stole away Achilles, 
those messengers whom she feared came to Peleus 
saying, "King Agamemnon is marshalling a host 
to sail against Troy, and princes who love peril 
and renown are gathered to him from many lands. 
We are come from him to greet you, and to pray 
you to send your young son along with us, for a 
seer has revealed that Troy cannot be taken save 
by a warrior sprung from Peleus." 

" He shall surely go with your host," answered 


Peleus, " and not alone, for I will send fifty ships, 
well manned, to Agamemnon's aid." 

Then he sent to call Achilles before the mes- 
sengers, but he could not be found. Now the 
messengers were King Agamemnon's herald, and 
a certain prince by name Odysseus. This Odys- 
seus was the wiliest of men, and the most keen- 
witted, and it came into his thought that Peleus 
had heard of the war, and hidden his son betimes 
that he might not go into danger. "Swear to us, 
King," he said, " that you are not beguiling us, 
for how can your son have gone hence, and you 
know nothing of it ? " Peleus had a mind to 
give him an angry answer, but he refrained him- 
self, and called Zeus to witness that he knew not 
what was become of Achilles. " This, then, is 
the work of some god," said Odysseus, and he 
departed with the herald. Now this subtle prince 
was very greatly favoured by Athena, for that 
goddess loves valour much, but prudence more, 
and Odysseus, though no coward, was better in 
council than in fight. So he had not gone far on 
his road, when she met him in the likeness of an 
old seaman, and said, "The lad you seek, Odys- 
seus, is in Scyros, for I saw him there." " I will 
take ship and go find him," said Odysseus. 
"That will not be easy," said the seeming old 
man ; " he dwells in the king's house in the guise 
of a maiden, and none has guessed his secret but 


myself, who knew his face aforetime." " Never- 
theless, I will go," said Odysseus, " for I think I 
know a way to tell a youth from a girl and 
disguise is a trick that others can play besides 

Not many days after, an old pedlar came to the 
king's house in Scyros, and the princess and her 
maidens flocked into the hall to see his wares. 
The pedlar spread out his great pack, and showed 
them all his rarities snowy lawn of Cyprus, 
shawls of Tyrian purple, necklaces of amber, 
and golden girdles studded with Eastern tur- 
quoise. He eyed the girls keenly while they 
eagerly fingered the trinkets, and chaffered with 
him over such as pleased their fancy, and he 
marked that one only looked carelessly on, and 
chose nothing. And to her the princess said, 
" Pyrrha, my sweet, do you care for none of these 
pretty things ? Come, choose some jewel, what 
you will, and let me make you a gift of it." But 
Pyrrha answered, " Nay, dearest princess, I have 
no mind to any of these baubles." At that, the 
pedlar smiled, and the princess said to him, 
"Old man, have you shown us all your store? 
If you have kept some choice trinket to the last, 
as pedlars use, let Pyrrha see if it pleases her 
better than the rest." 

"Gracious lady," said the pedlar, "I have one 
thing left, but it is no toy to please a maiden." 


So saying, he drew from its wrappings a sword 
of rare workmanship, ivory-hilted, with golden 
lions inwrought on its blade of dark-blue steel. 
Pyrrha's eyes sparkled at sight of it ; she took 
it from his hand, poised it in her own, and cried, 
"This is the gift for me, if the pedlar asks not 
too great a price for such a goodly weapon." 

"It is yours without a price," answered the 
pedlar, "if you dare use it Achilles!' And 
suddenly he tore off beard and coarse mantle, 
and stood before them a bronze-corsleted warrior. 
For he was none other than Odysseus, and this 
was how he found the son of Peleus. "There is 
some treachery," cried the princess, and she fled 
out of the hall with the other maidens. Achilles 
was both ashamed and angry that he had betrayed 
himself to this cunning stranger, but Odysseus 
with artful words soon changed his mood, telling 
him of the glory to be won at Troy, and how 
Peleus himself desired to send him with twenty 
ships to that war. Then Achilles forgot all else 
in eagerness for that great adventure, and would 
have sailed that very hour in the ship of Odysseus 
which waited him in a lonely bay, but he said, 
" If I go with you to the host in these maiden's 
robes, I shall be shamed for ever." " That have 
I cared for," said Odysseus, and he unrolled a 
bale of fine linen, and took out a suit of armour, 
and clad the youth in it, girding him with the 


sword. At that moment the King came in to 
them from the fields, for he had been watching 
the sowers, and his daughter had run to him 
there. " Ah, son of Thetis," he said, " you, 
then, were the maiden your mother bade me 
harbour. I guessed so much, when I heard my 
daughter's tale, for I knew Achilles was the name 
that gracious sea-queen gave her child. Now, as 
I hear, you are found by this stranger. Let me 
understand, I pray, what brings him here." 
Straightway Odysseus told his errand, and to 
win the King upon his side, he declared the 
prophecy that Troy could not be taken without 
help of one sprung from Peleus. This the King 
no sooner heard than he desired to have alliance 
with the youth who was destined to such great- 
ness, and said, " How blessed is Peleus, who has 
a son so highly favoured of the gods. Would 
that I too might hear Achilles call me father." 
" King of Scyros," said the youth, with a rosy 
blush, "if your fair daughter can love Achilles 
as she loved Pyrrha, it would please me well to 
call you by that name. But this is no time for 
marrying or giving in marriage, and I must 

" Nay," said the King, " what needs such haste ? 
Let Odysseus go to Phthia and take the fifty 
ships your father promised to where the host is 
mustering, and stay you here meanwhile. We 

PELEUS 1 5 1 

will have your wedding this very day, and in 
seven days you also shall sail to the trysting- 
place. So will no time be lost, for Odysseus will 
take seven days in going and returning." 

And Odysseus consented to go, but before he 
left them he said, "I hear of you, Achilles, that 
you hate a lie worse than death. Pledge me 
your word, therefore, that in seven days you will 
come without fail to the harbour of Aulis, for 
that is the trysting- place." So Achilles gave his 
word, and forthwith Odysseus departed. 

Now the King had told his daughter whom he 
guessed Pyrrha to be, and she wept bitterly be- 
cause her loved playmate was no maiden, as she 
thought, but a youth who perhaps had scorned 
her all this time in secret for her girlish ways. 
And she had offered him one of those glittering 
trifles (baubles, he called them, truly), whose 
rightful wear was the armour of a prince ! It 
seemed to her that she could never look him 
in the face again for very shame, and she stole 
away by herself, and went down to the seashore, 
and sat there, weeping. Presently she began to 
reproach Thetis aloud for what she had done, 
calling seaward, and saying, " O Lady of the 
waves, why have you dealt so evilly with us ? 
Do not we of this isle honour you and your 
sisters above all the goddesses, because of your 
kindly help to our fishermen ? Many a boat 


have you brought safe to shore in tempest, many 
a great shoal of tunny have you driven into their 
nets, but have we ever forgotten to be grateful ? 
If you had trusted my father with the truth 
about the guest you brought him, I had not 
been shamed this day." 

Then Thetis, rising through the deep, came to 
her where she sat, and she too was weeping. 
" King's daughter," she said, " it was to save 
my child from doom that I hid him here, for 
he must fall in battle if he goes where the hate- 
ful Odysseus seeks to take him. Yes, it was 
Odysseus, that crafty fox, who played the pedlar, 
and now he has found Achilles, he will bend 
him to his purpose with cunning words. But 
you, if you have any pity for my son, may save 
him yet." 

" I would give my life for his," said the 
princess, casting down her eyes; "only tell me 
what I must do." Thetis smiled through her 
tears, and answered, "I will tell you that on 
our way to the palace. Come, let us be goin^, 
for I am in haste to meet my son." So as 
they went together, Thetis told the princess that 
she was to be married to Achilles that same 
day, and prayed her to keep him from going 
forth to Troy. " How can I do that ? " asked 
the princess. " Ask him what he will give you 
for a bride-gift," said Thetis, " and he will bid 


you choose what you will. Then say you choose 
the granting of the first request you make to 
him, and let that request be, that he will not 
leave you for a year." 

Now when they came to the palace, they 
found all things ready for the marriage, and the 
maidens were waiting to deck the bride in her 
finest jewels and array, and when they had attired 
her, Thetis set her own crown of pearls on her 
hair, saying, " These are the bride-price my son 
pays on his marriage, as the custom is." Then 
were Achilles and the princess wedded, with 
pomp and great rejoicings, and the King held 
a feast for all comers. And after the marriage, 
the princess sought a gift from Achilles, as 
Thetis had counselled, and he bade her choose 
what she would. " I desire nothing but this," 
she said, " that you will grant the first request 
I shall make." 

" Deiodamia," said Achilles (that was the name 
of the princess), " I love you too well to refuse 
anything you ask me, if it be not against my 
honour to do it. Prove me now, and let me 
hear your first request." But when she asked 
him to stay with her for a year, he told her 
that could not be, for he had given his word 
to Odysseus to set sail for Aulis in seven days. 
Nor could all her tears and entreaties move him 
to break his promise, although his soul was 


troubled at her distress. So, on the seventh 
day they parted, with many a tender, sad fare- 
well ; heavy were their young hearts that day, 
and dark forebodings came to them that they 
should see each other no more for ever. Yet 
Achilles comforted his bride as best he might, 
bidding her hope for his return with a victor's 
spoils from the war, and then, not to grieve 
him too sorely, she feigned better cheer, and 
looked her last on him with a smile. Thus 
the son of Peleus and the Sea-King's daughter 
went forth to Troy, as it was ordained ; but 
what befell him there of sorrow and glory we 
leave untold, for such matters are too high and 
moving for a mere fairy-tale. 



THERE was a king in the olden time, whose 
name was Pelias, and he dwelt in the fair 
harbour-town of lolcos, ruling a folk that were 
famous seafarers from the beginning. A bold 
man was he, and a crafty, but he went ever in 
fear of his life, for he had an ill deed on his 
conscience, and his sleep of nights was broken by 
dreams which boded a bitter reckoning for the 
same. Many and many a time he awoke with a 
shriek, as a dagger seemed to touch his throat, 
but the dream-shape that brandished it was dim 
and wavering, and he could never descry the 
countenance of that phantom foe. At last he 
sent a trusty messenger to the holy place of 
Delphi, where Apollo reveals hidden things to 
mortals by the mouth of his priestess, to ask 
the interpretation of the vision. For he thought, 
"If I can but learn what man it is whose 
wraith appears to me, I shall make short work 
with him, and rid myself of this dread in which 
I live." The messenger returned, and brought 



this answer from the god : " Let Pelias know 
that the doom he dreams of will come from the 
hand of a near kinsman. I bid him beware, 
above all else, of the man who comes to him 
wearing one sandal, whether he be a stranger, or 
born and bred in lolcos." 

When King Pelias heard this message, his blood 
froze with fear ; it was indeed death, then, that 
the dreams foreboded. Yet it was some comfort 
that now at least he had a sign whereby to know 
when the danger drew near, and he still hoped 
that he might forestall it if he kept good watch. 
So he set guards day and night about his palace, 
and watchmen at all the city gates, and gave 
strict charge to them all to bring him instant 
warning, if ever they should see a man with one 
sandal. And as time went on, his heart grew 
somewhat lightened of its dread, for there was 
no such comer seen, arid the evil dreams ceased 
to visit him. 

But he that was foretold came in his destined 
hour to lolcos, out of the mountains to the 
northward, and stood in the market-place, while 
it was yet morning, and the throng of folk was 
greatest. The watchmen at the gate had seen 
him pass, but they paid no heed to one who 
seemed a mere lad, and by his dress a hunter 
from the hill-country. 

This youth carried two hunting-spears, and 


instead of a cloak a leopard skin hung from his 
shoulders, above a close-fitting tunic ; his head was 
uncovered, and his long curls flamed golden-red 
in the sunlight. It was easy to guess, from the 
shy and wondering glances he cast about him, 
that he was new to the sights of a city, yet he 
bore himself with the noble grace of a king's son, 
and as he stood there silent, many eyes were drawn 
to the beauty of his face, and his stature, lofty as 
a god's. Men began to whisper to one another, 
asking who the stranger was, and when none 
could answer, a murmur went to and fro among 
the crowd that one of the Immortals was come 
among them. 

"So might Apollo look," they muttered, "or 
the mailed warrior Ares, fair and terrible. Surely 
this is some god, or the son of a god." 

" Nay, friends," said some of the old men, 
"the gods come not thus in the sight of multi- 
tudes. Rather should we guess this mighty youth 
to be of that old race of the Earth-born Giants, 
but they all have perished long since, and only 
their huge graves are left for a witness to our 


Now, while the folks talked thus under their 
breaths, and durst not, for reverence, question 
the godlike stranger, a man of the King's house- 
hold gazed with the rest, and marked on a 
sudden that he wore but the one sandal. For it 


chanced, as the youth crossed the ford of a 
mountain stream on his way to the city, that 
its fellow slipped from his foot and was carried 
away by the torrent. Quickly did that hench- 
man bring word to the palace, and at his tidings, 
King Pelias came in hot haste to the market- 
place, urging the swift mules of his ivory car to 
their utmost speed. " Way there for the King," 
cried the slaves who ran beside him, and he drew 
rein in a cleared space, whence all the people had 
drawn back for his coming, save the stranger 
lad only. Pelias scanned him eagerly, and his 
soul sickened with affright as he saw the dreaded 
token of the single sandal on his right foot. But 
he cloaked the fear within him with haughty 
words, and said, eying the lad disdainfully, 
" Stranger, what country do you call home ? 
What grey-haired carline of low degree mothered 
such a dainty pet ? Come, speak out your paren- 
tage, and disgrace it not with detested lying." 

Then the youth, undaunted, yet with gentlest 
courtesy, made reply 

" It is mine, rather, to render such answer as 
shall not disgrace the great Chiron, my teacher. 
For my home has been in his mountain-cave, and 
I had my rearing from the virtuous wife and 
mother of that wise Centaur. Twenty years have 
I numbered in the care of these foster-parents, 
and never yet done dishonour to their upbringing 


by deceitful act or word. But now I am come 
again to my own native land, to claim the ancient 
rights that were my father's, which Pelias, as 
I hear, holds in unlawful possession, even this 
kingdom of lolcos." 

" Do you call yourself, then, the son of 
Aeson," cried the King, " who ruled this land 
until a better than he took it from him ? Who 
knows not that his only child died at its birth ? " 

" Not so, for I am that child," answered the 
stranger ; " but when Pelias, moved by reckless 
desires, had overthrown his kinsman King Aeson 
with force and fraud, then for fear of that violent 
oppressor, my parents feigned that their new- 
born son was dead, and made great mourning, 
with all their household. Then, at dead of night, 
they sent me privily out of the city, a babe 
wrapped in swaddling-bands of royal crimson, 
and at their bidding faithful friends conveyed me 
to Chiron's cave, where I might be reared in 
safety. And Jason was the name by which that 
twy-natured Being was wont to call me. Such 
in brief is my story, and now, good townsmen, 
since you know me for your countryman, come 
back to his own city, which of you will show me 
the ancient house of my fathers, that I know not, 
though I was born there ? " 

Before Jason made an end of speaking, King 
Pelias turned his mules and drove at a furious 


pace back to the palace ; he knew that the folk 
held him in secret hate because he had dethroned 
Aeson, that gentle king, and he feared lest they 
should rise against him then and there, when 
they heard the lad with one sandal declare himself 
their rightful prince. But Jason also hurried 
from the market-place, eagerly following a band 
of willing guides. One thing he had not found 
courage to ask of a company of strangers, and 
would wait to learn within the doors of his home 
was his father yet alive ? Chiron had told him 
nothing of the old man's fate, only had bidden 
him go to lolcos and claim his heritage from 
the usurper. Now when he was come to the 
house, and entered through its pillared porch, 
he crossed a wide courtyard, empty and silent, 
where grass was springing from the cracked pave- 
ment of marble, and in the hall beyond it he 
saw no one but an aged man, wrapped in a faded 
mantle, sitting in a low chair beside the embers 
of the hearth. The once lordly chamber was 
bare of furnishing ; dust lay thick upon the floor, 
and cobwebs, where rich hangings should have 
been, drooped curtainwise from lintel and cornice. 
The home the youth had come to seemed a house 
of the dead, deserted save for that motionless 
figure cowering over the dying fire. But as he 
moved towards it, the snow-white head turned 
slowly, the dim eyes looked him in the face, and 


a trembling voice rang through the silence, 
" My son, my son ! ' Jason sprang to the old 
king, for he indeed it was, and clasped him to 
his breast, while tears of joy fell fast from those 
withered eyelids. It was long before Aeson 
could find words, in the rapture of beholding 
his son, come back to him the fairest and good- 
liest of men, but he told at last how Pelias had 
stripped him little by little of all he possessed, 
on this pretext or that, till neither broad lands, 
nor flocks and herds, nor the rich treasures of 
his house were left, and he himself, with a few 
old slaves that tended him for love, lived on 
the secret doles of his well-wishers among the 

" How comes it, my father," asked Jason, 
" that your two brethren have suffered you to 
be so evilly entreated of this tyrant, seeing that 
each of them is a king in his own country, if 
indeed they yet live ? " 

" They live and prosper," answered his father, 
" but it is far from hence to where they dwell, 
and they begrudge to waste blood and treasure 
in the cause of a feeble old man that cannot 
have long to live. But word will quickly reach 
them that you are home again, and when they 
hear what manner of young man their brother's 
son is become, I am much mistaken or they will 
think his cause worth battling for. Be you 



patient till we have news of them, for it comes 
in my mind that we shall shortly see either them- 
selves, or the princes, your cousins." 

The old king was a true prophet, and before 
many days, so swiftly spread the rumour of 
Jason's return, those two brethren and their sons 
came to greet him at lolcos. The name of one 
was Pheres, and his son was called Admetus; 
these two were men of gracious and winning 
presence, speaking words of pleasantness, but their 
souls within them were little and mean. Amy- 
thaon, the other brother, was king in the far 
south-west ; he had a name for wisdom, but the 
son he brought with him had yet a greater in 
the after time. For he was that Melampus of 
whom you may read in the tale of " The Prince 
who was a Seer." 

Jason and his father made these kinsmen right 
welcome, although their hearts misgave them for 
the bareness of their ancient dwelling and for 
the wherewithal to feast the princes and their 
following. But at the first word that Aeson's 
kinsmen were come to visit him, the townsfolk 
rejoiced openly because at last strong helpers had 
appeared for the oppressed king, and they feared 
not to make their gladness and goodwill manifest 
by bringing him gifts in abundance of everything 
needful to entertain his guests. Such store of 
sheep and oxen, of corn and wine and oil, of 


tables, couches, vessels of every sort, and all 
manner of household stuffs, as was gathered that 
day in Aeson's courtyard, had not been seen 
within its gates for many a long year. More- 
over, the wealthier citizens sent their house- 
thralls both men and maids, by the score, to 
grind the corn, to bake, and dress meat for the 
banquet, and to serve the king and his kins- 
folk in the hall. So that night there was feasting 
and good cheer, torchlight and merry stir, in the 
house that had so long been silent and deserted. 

Now Jason had the charge of all, and gave 
command as master, because of his father's great 
age and infirmity, and carried himself as a princely 
host should do, overlooking no point of courtesy, 
so that it was a marvel to his guests how he had 
come by these manners in the cave of a Centaur. 
For they knew not noble Chiron, who in the after 
time reared Prince Peleus in the like gracious 
ways, and compassed for him his marriage with 
the Sea-King's daughter, as I have told already. 

Then, to do his kinsmen all honour, Jason 
feasted them with the best for five days and five 
nights, saying no word of the matter he had at 
heart, but tasting in their company the delicious 
joy of life at its sweetest. 

But on the sixth day he began to speak of 
graver things, and when he had opened all his 
mind to them, they gave full consent to that 


which he declared it his purpose now to do, and 
rising all together from the banquet, they followed 
him forthwith to the house of Pelias. At the 
sound of their voices in his hall, King Pelias 
came hastily from the inner chambers to meet 
them, and then, with fair-flowing speech of gentle 
tone, Jason spoke thus : " Son of a mighty sire, 
over quick are mortals to barter justice for the 
wages of iniquity, forgetting that the hour of 
reckoning must overtake them soon or late. But 
it well beseems both you and me to rule our 
hearts aright, and take thought what shall bring 
us good in days to come. Call to remembrance, 
I pray you, that your fathers and mine were of 
one blood, and that the divine Dispensers of 
weal and woe to men turn their faces from the 
sight of feuds between kindred. Let there be 
neither strife nor drawing of swords between us 
two, to make division of the great inheritance of 
our forefathers ; for if you will follow my coun- 
sel, it shall not need. See now, I freely yield the 
rich lands, and all the goodly flocks and herds, of 
which you have despoiled the old man, my father ; 
little care I for the wealth these bring into your 
house, only do you on your part restore me the 
sceptre that was Aeson's, and the kingly seat 
where he gave judgment to his people. These, I 
say, yield up and grudge me not, lest a worse 
thing come of it." 


Now Pelias was no ways minded to give up 
the kingship, even though he might keep all the 
fatness of the land for his own, and besides, he 
was utterly purposed to destroy the lad with the 
one sandal, because of the oracle he had heard 
concerning him. While Jason was yet speaking, 
his swift and cunning mind devised a plan for 
his undoing, and he answered with a show of 
mildness, in these words : " Behold, I will deal 
according to your pleasure in all things, but I am 
now stricken in years, and you are in the flower 
of your youth, therefore it is for you to under- 
take a certain task that else were mine. Hear 
now what it is, since you seek to be head over all 
our kindred, for the matter touches him most 
nearly who is chief of our house. There was a 
prince of our blood, Athamas by name, whose 
wife died and left him with two young children, 
and in no long time he wedded another. Now 
this second bride proved a cruel stepdame, and 
when sons were born to her, she plotted death for 
Phrixus, the eldest born of the first wife, that 
her own children might inherit the kingdom. She 
caused all the seed sown in the land to be secretly 
poisoned, and when many that ate the corn 
sickened and died, she brought her husband to 
believe that the gods had sent a pestilence on the 
people, which must be stayed by some great sacri- 
fice. Then did she bribe a wicked seer to declare 


that the wrath of the gods could be turned away 
by no other victim than the King's first-born son. 
But when the boy Phrixus was laid on the altar- 
stone, and the knife upraised to slay him, the 
gods delivered him out of her hands in wondrous 
wise. For a ram with curly fleece of gold 
stood suddenly on the altar, and while all shrank 
back amazed, the boy threw himself upon its 
back, and it rose with him into the air. Over 
land and sea it flew till it brought him to the 


country of the Colchians in the unknown regions 
far northward, and there, by divine bidding, he 
sacrificed it to Ares, god of the land, and hung 
its golden fleece on a tree of his sacred grove. 
But that fleece of gold was the bane of the 
hapless youth not long after, for the king of the 
Colchians put him to death only to possess the 
marvellous thing. And now, O Jason, I would 
have you go to yonder land, and take the Golden 
Fleece from the keeping of that savage king, 
since I am given to know that our murdered 
kinsman's spirit cannot rest till this be done. 
Yes, such is the message his unquiet ghost has 
sent me in a dream, and when I sought counsel 
of the god at Delphi, answer came from the 
place of prophecy, that I should straightway 
launch a ship to sail on the hallowed quest. 
This quest, then, do you pledge yourself to 
follow in my stead, and I will swear a solemn 


oath, making Zeus my witness, to yield you the 

Now all the tale Pelias told concerning Phrixus 
was true, but as for the dream and the message 
from Delphi, they were falsehoods cunningly de- 
vised to send Jason on a quest wherein he should 
surely perish. But the youth neither knew guile 
in his own heart, nor looked for it in another, so 
he made the covenant that Pelias asked, and took 
leave of him, rilled with eagerness to achieve so 
strange an adventure. Then forthwith he sent 
out heralds to proclaim everywhere that he was 
bound on a perilous voyage, and would make 
all welcome to sail along with him who loved 
danger and renown better than to dwell at home 
in ignoble safety. At those tidings, high-hearted 
sons of kings gathered to lolcos from far and 
near, for Queen Hera filled their hearts with 
keen desire to be Jason's shipmates, because she 
favoured him above all mortals from the day he 
came to the city to his life's end. And this was 
the reason : when he came to the ford where he 
lost his sandal, he saw an old beggar-woman 
sitting on the bank, crying and bewailing herself 
because she could not cross the rain-swollen 
stream. Jason spoke kindly to her, and, though 
she was both ragged and dirty, he took her up in 
his arms and carried her over. No sooner had he 
set her down again than her bent and shrunken 


form was changed into that of a fair woman in 
her prime, and her rags into shining raiment, and 
she said to him, " For this good deed, count me 
your friend for ever." Thereupon she vanished 
from his sight, and he went on his way with 
gladness, knowing that one of the Immortals had 
appeared to him in this shape. Now the beggar- 
woman was Hera, who was wandering that day 
on earth, to see what kindness mortals would 
show to one so feeble and wretched. 

So the flower of all the heroes who then lived 
came to the house of Aeson, making offer to sail 
with Jason on the quest. The first who came 
were two noble youths in armour of gleaming 
silver ; so like they were that none might know 
one from the other, and their silver chariot was 
drawn by horses white as snow. These were the 
twin brothers, Castor and Polydeuces, who for 
the great love they bore each other were never 
parted their lives long, nor did even death sunder 
them at the last. The next comer had neither 
chariot nor shining armour, but trudged on foot, 
bearing a great bow and quiver, with a tawny 
lion-skin girt about his sinewy, sun-browned 
limbs. He was a man in the prime of life, of 
gallant bearing, though without height or comeli- 
ness of person, and he passed unremarked through 
the crowd that were drawn to Jason's door to 
gaze on those glorious Twins. 


But they, when they saw him stand within the 
hall, rose up in deepest reverence as at the coming 
of a god, and Jason also, for he knew by the 
lion-skin and bow that this was Heracles himself. 
Much had he heard from Chiron of that great 
helper of men, and he gazed with awe and wonder 
on him who had done such mighty deeds by land 
and sea. But now came into the hall a young 
minstrel clad in flowing robe of white, with a 
chaplet of ivy on his fair hair. " I also, Jason," 
he said, " would fain be of your crew, though I 
have no weapon but this harp of mine. I am 
Orpheus of Thrace, come hither at Apollo's bid- 
ding, that your brave company may not lack 
for the minstrelsy warriors love so well." Right 
gladly did the princes there assembled welcome 
that sweet singer, whose fame was gone out into 
all lands ; of him it was told that beasts and birds, 
nay, the trees and rocks of the Thracian moun- 
tains, would follow the sound of his enchanting 

It were long to tell what other heroes of ancient 
story mustered in Jason's hall that day, but none 
were so wondrous to behold as the last comers, 
Zetes and Calais, sons of the North Wind, who 
had bright feathered wings waving from their 

Meanwhile, the best-skilled craftsmen of lolcos 
had wrought busily under Jason's watchful eye 


at the building of his ship ; the tallest pines on 
Mount Pelion, whose woody top overhung the 
cave of Chiron, had been felled for her masts and 
timbers, and her fifty stout oars were hewn from 
giant ash-trees. When all was finished, and the 
good ship lay ready for launching, her young 
captain summoned his new comrades to the 
harbour, and said to them, " Here, noble friends, 
is the bark that shall carry us to the far Colchian 
land, well found with all we need for the long 
voyage." Then all the heroes clapped their 
hands at sight of the ship, and they called her 
Argo, that is to say, the Swift. And now Jason 
called upon Mopsos the seer, that dwelt in lolcos, 
to offer sacrifice to Zeus, and entreat him for 
favourable signs at their setting forth, which the 
god granted both by the omens of the altar and 
by the lucky fall of lots that the seer cast to 
tell their fortunes. So that wise soothsayer bade 
them embark with all speed, for the hour was 
propitious to their sailing. But a greater sign 
followed, for when all were come aboard, and the 
anchors were raised on either side the prow, Jason 
stood up beside the helm, holding a golden cup 
in his hands, and poured wine therefrom into the 
sea, calling aloud on Zeus, lord of the lightning, 
on winds and waves, and nights of sea-faring, to 
be gracious to their outgoing and their home- 
coming. Immediately a peal of thunder gave 

BUII, DINT, THE .-//><,. 
' 1 1 era sent . \tliena to help the woknicn.) 





answer from the clouds above, and lightning- 
flashes were seen to the right of the ship, cheering 
the hearts of all with happiest augury. At that, 
the seer bade the princely comrades betake them 
to their oars, and their mighty strokes bore the 
Argo swiftly out to sea. All that day, and many 
a day after, they rowed on untiringly, sped along 
by the strong south breeze that filled their sails. 
Fifty all told were those sailors, sons of gods and 
of kings, but none of Jason's kindred was among 
them, except only the brave Acastus, son of Pelias, 
who, for all his father could say, would not be 
turned from the quest of the Golden Fleece. So 
they fared ever northward, keeping in view the 
bays and promontories of the western mainland, 
till they had need of fresh water, and put in to a 
wooded cove, where a stream ran sparkling to the 
sea. And here misfortune befell them, for they 
lost Heracles, the best of their crew. There had 
followed him to lolcos a fair lad called Hylas, 
who served him as cup-bearer. This boy, for his 
dauntless spirit, and the love Heracles had to 
him, was made one of Argo's crew, and he 
disembarked in this place with the rest. But 
while they drew water from the stream, he 
wandered along its banks into the woods, till 
he came to its source in a deep, clear pool. As 
he bent over its cool depths, the Water Fairies 
who abode therein fell in love with his beauty, 


and before he was aware they threw their white 
arms about him and drew him under. Hylas 
gave one cry for help as the water closed over 
him, and Heracles, who heard and knew the well- 
loved voice, rushed to find him, but in vain ; nor, 
though the hero and his comrades searched the 
woods the livelong day, could they see or hear 
aught of the vanished lad. Then when morning 
dawned again, Heracles bade the others delay no 
longer from their journey. " But I," said he, 
" must tarry, for I will never leave this place till 
I know what has become of Hylas." Sadly Jason 
and the rest took farewell of their great com- 
panion ; their hearts were sore for his grief, but 
they might not linger, and so once more they 
stood out to sea with oar and sail. 

Now, after that, they came to a long strait of 
the sea, and on the shore of it there was an old 
blind man sitting at a table, who seemed to be 
weeping. " Let us draw in to land," said Jason, 
" and ask that old man what he does in this 
solitary place, and what may be his sorrow." So 
they brought Argo close in to the shelving shore, 
and called to him, asking who he was. The old 
man turned his sightless eyes upon them, and 
answered, " I am Phineus, the seer, of all men 
most miserable. Apollo, in my youth, bestowed 
on me the power of prophecy, whereby I came to 
great honour, and my house was filled with rich 


gifts from the folk who sought to me for sooth- 
say. But I offended the holy gods by greed of 
gain, therefore in mine age they sent blindness 
upon me, and a strange evil, the like of which 
came never on mortal man. For whenever I sat 
at meat, two monstrous birds, with heads of 
women, darted screeching upon my food, and 
snatched it away before I could taste one morsel, 
leaving but fragments dropped from their foul 
talons. They were in sight like vultures that 
prey on carcases, and the deadly carrion smell of 
them polluted all they touched, and all the air of 
the house, so that none could endure to abide 
therein. And at last the men of my city thrust 
me forth, because of those noisome guests, but 
that they might still resort to me for prophecies, 
they builded me a hut on this lonely shore, and 
daily bring me offerings of choice dainties, such 
as I love. But woe's me ! those fell winged 
creatures cease not to haunt me, as you will 
shortly see." 

" Old man," said Jason, " our hearts are 
moved with pity for your wretched lot. Tell 
us now, by your divine foresight, shall none 
rid you of this strange pest ? " 

" Concerning that," said Phineus, " only this 
much is revealed to me ; my deliverers are even 
now aboard this your ship, O son of Aeson, and 
bound for the far Colchian land. I know you, 


prince, and your errand, and who your comrades 
are, but which of them shall rescue me, and in 
what hour, is hidden from my ken." 

While they talked thus, certain men came 
thither from the city, bearing baskets of rich 
viands which they spread on the old man's table, 
and he put forth his hands to take of them. 
Instantly, with hideous screams, two vulture- 
shapes, woman-headed, swooped down from 
upper air, seized upon the food and soared away 
swifter than an arrow's flight. And the air was 
filled with a poisonous savour of decay, so that 
Jason and his comrades were fain to push off 
their ship from that tainted shore. But Phineus 
cried to them with tears not to abandon him in 
his helpless plight, and they talked with him 
from Argo's deck, and Jason asked him how the 
dire monsters were called. "By mortals," he 
answered, " they are called the Harpies, that 
is the Snatchers, but the gods name them the 
Hounds of Zeus. You have seen their swiftness, 
how it is such that neither javelin nor arrow may 
overtake them ; alas, what could Heracles him- 
self avail me, were he yet with you ! ' 

Then said Jason, " I know a way," and he 
filled a trencher with food, and bade the two 
Sons of the North Wind carry it ashore and set 
it before Phineus. They no sooner did so than 
the Harpies were seen darting upon the table ; 


but swifter still, Zetes and Calais rushed between 
and drove them back with the flapping of their 
bright wings. The Harpies fled shrieking, pur- 
sued by those winged brethren over hill and dale, 
and the North Wind blew a fierce gale to speed 
his sons along, till on a desolate mountain they 
overtook the monsters, and drew their swords to 
slay them. But Zeus sent Iris, his messenger 
who rides upon the rainbow, to forbid them, 
because the Harpies were ministers of his ven- 
geance upon sinners, and she commanded Zetes 
and Calais to put up their swords, and take an 
oath from them never more to come near Phineus. 
So the women-headed creatures swore it with 
human voice, by the great oath that binds the 
Immortal gods, even by the Water of Styx, that 
icy stream which flows from Earth into the Nether 
World. And the sons of the North Wind flew 
back to the Argo. 

Now when they had bidden Phineus farewell, 
the heroes sailed along the strait to its opening 
into another sea, stormy and cold, where never 
ship had sailed before. For at the mouth of the 
strait two steep cliffs made a gateway, and they 
were alive, and whatever passed between them 
they crushed to pieces, clashing suddenly together 
upon it. But the comrades were forewarned by 
Phineus of this dreadful place, and having cast 
anchor before it, they went ashore and built an 


altar of stones and sacrificed a bull to Poseidon, 
god of mariners, with prayers for aid. And 
Hera, in her love to Jason, prevailed with 
Poseidon to grant them safe passage through 
those gates that he had set up to keep mortals 
from the Northern Sea, and she came herself 
to the ship in the likeness of a damsel, carrying 
a white dove. " Hail, Jason ! " she said : " A 
friend sends you this bird, even she whom you 
met by the ford of the stream, and bids you let 
it loose from Argo's prow. Then, when you see 
it pass between the Clashing Cliffs, let your 
comrades row forward at their utmost speed." 
With that, she vanished, and Jason, glad at 
heart, bade his comrades bend to their oars, 
and let go the dove. Straight through the pass 
she flew, and the cliffs closed upon her with a 
roar like thunder, but by T;Tera's grace she sped 
between so swiftly that only her tail feathers 
were caught. Then, as the rocks rolled back 
with a grinding noise, Argo's crew rowed onward 
for their lives, and brought the good ship through 
by a hair's-breadth. The Clashing Cliff's met 
again that same instant, but too late, and that 
was the end of them, for their doom was, if ever 
they missed their prey, to dash each other to 

Poseidon, at Hera's entreaty, calmed the 
northern deep for those first voyagers, and 


with a fair wind ever behind them they came 
at last in sight of the low misty shores of an 
unknown land. It was towards evening when 
they drew near and saw at hand the mouth of 
a broad river that flowed between dark woods 
of beech and pine, and there in a creek of the 
spreading stream they moored their ship for the 


WITH the first light of day Jason and two of his 
comrades set forth inland, that they might find 
some inhabited place, and learn if this was the 
country to which they were bound. Presently 
they spied smoke curling up through the trees 
of the forest, and they went towards it, and came 
to a great house of timber, standing in an open 
glade, with byres and barns around it. As they 
drew near, a lad met them, driving cows to 
pasture, and they asked him the name of the 
land, and who dwelt in that house. " Strangers," 
said he, " this is the country of the Colchians, and 
yonder house is the palace of Aietes, their king." 
Then Jason, and the two comrades with him, 
who were Castor and Polydeuces, were glad, 
because they were at their journey's end ; and 
they went into the palace and found the King 



sitting in the hall among his chieftains, dark- 
skinned men of fierce countenance, clad in golden 
armour of strange fashion. Aietes looked grimly 
upon the strangers, but he bade them sit down 
and feast with him, and his slaves set food before 
them in plenty, and dark, sweet drink, brewed 
of herbs and honey. When they had eaten and 
drunk, the King asked them whence they came, 
and where they had left the ship that brought 
them, for he knew that they must have come by 
sea to his country, since by land it was walled 
about with trackless forests. And Jason answered 
discreetly, not making known his errand, but say- 
ing they were come from a land far south, and 
had moored their ship in the river not far away. 
"It is well," said the King. "Let your two 
comrades now go and bring the rest of your 
crew hither, that I may feast them all. To-day 
we will make merry, and you shall try your 
mettle in sword-play with my warriors, and to- 
morrow you shall tell me your errand." 

So the Twin Brethren went forth to fetch their 
comrades, but the King, under show of courtesy, 
kept Jason from returning to the ship lest the 
strangers should put to sea, and escape out of 
his hands. For this Aietes was a cruel prince 
and a cunning, and he thought to make easy prey 
of these young men and their companions, and 
seize their fair-wrought arms, and any treasure 


they might have with them. But meantime he 
covered his evil purpose with friendly speech, 
bidding Jason refresh himself after his voyaging, 
and caused him to be led to a chamber where a 
bath was made ready. As the youth entered it 
he saw an ancient serving-woman pouring water 
into the bath out of a steaming cauldron, and she 
said to him, " Prince Jason, when you leave this 
chamber the King's daughter will meet you, and 
offer you a posset in a silver cup. Beware you 
taste it not, for it is deadly, but pour it on the 
ground, and say, * For Those Below.' Then give 
this to the King's daughter." So saying, the old 
woman took a shining thing from her bosom, and 
gave it to Jason, and went quickly forth. But as 
she went out the fashion of her changed, and she 
shone with a beauty not earthly, so that he per- 
ceived some goddess had spoken to him. Now 
the shining thing was in the form of a four- 
spoked wheel, and it was golden, and the figure 
of a speckled bird, moulded in clay, was bound 
upon the spokes by the outspread wings and by 
the feet. Jason viewed it with wonder, and he 
bathed himself quickly, eager to see what should 
next betide. Then, when he was arrayed again, 
and come out of that chamber, there greeted him 
a dark maiden, robed in scarlet, and she offered 
him drink in a silver cup. But he took it from 
her hand, smiling, and poured the drink upon the 


ground, and said, "For Those Below." The 
King's daughter looked at the youth in silence, 
and her olive cheeks turned pale. " Princess of 
the Colchians," said he, <l let it not displease you 
that I deal thus with your gift, but take a gift 
in return." And he laid the golden wheel in 
her hand, and left her standing mute. Now the 
daughter of Aietes was a great enchantress, one 
that could draw the moon out of the sky by her 
incantations, and knew all spells that can be 
wrought with strange drugs and herbs of might. 
At her father's bidding she had mingled a potion 
for the stranger prince that would have destroyed 
him in three days, withering his veins with con- 
suming fire. But, by his offering it to the Dead, 
she understood that he knew death was in the 
cup, and great fear of him took hold of her, for 
she deemed he had that knowledge by art magical, 
and that his gift was some potent charm. This 
in truth it was, as shall presently be told. 

So soon as Argo's crew were come to the 
palace, King Aietes made them cheer with a feast 
of good things, and after the banquet he had 
them forth into a meadow, and desired them to 
show him what skill they had with their weapons. 
And he set ten chosen warriors to sword-play 
with Jason and nine of his comrades, while he 
sat to watch on a grassy knoll, and his daughter 
beside him. Then, under colour of sport, the 


Colchian warriors aimed deadly strokes at the 
strangers, for so had the King given secret 
command, trusting to see his champions slay 
those youthful guests right speedily. But the 
ten comrades fought like young lions with their 
fierce adversaries, and when they saw the battle 
was for life or death, they spared not to smite 
them till all were slain upon the place. Sore 
wearied, but unwounded in that deadly fray, the 
heroes sheathed their resistless swords at last, 
and Jason cried to the King, " We are guiltless, 
Aietes, of the deaths of these men. In an evil 
hour have we come to such a host as this, who 
would make it his pastime to see guests slaughtered 
before his face." 

Aietes rose up with a laugh, and answered, 
" They that fare to strange lands must meet with 
strange customs. But since you like our Colchian 
manner of sport so little, I will henceforth deal 
with you in earnest." With that he took them 
back to the palace, but because it was now late, 
he sent them to the guest-chambers, saying he 
would hear their errand in the morning. 

That night the witch-princess could not sleep 
for thinking on the bright-haired stranger, and 
the meaning of the gift he had given her. She 
was afraid to keep it, and afraid to leave it, and 
she had it hidden in the folds above her girdle 
while she watched him righting for his life with 


her father's best swordsman ; nor for all her skill 
in enchantments did she know that the spell of it 
was at work upon her even then. At last she 
slept, and dreamed that a queen crowned with 
roses stood at her bedside, and asked her what 
thoughts those were that troubled her; but, when 
she essayed to answer, she could find no words, 
and fell to weeping. 

Then said the rose-crowned queen, " I am 
Aphrodite, known among gods and men for an 
enchantress of power, and to pleasure great Hera, 
I have put a charm upon you mightier than all 
your spells. For, as the bird is bound upon the 
wheel I bade Prince Jason give you, so your heart 
is bound with cords of desire to the giver, by the 
virtue of that charm. Rise now, and follow me 
to his chamber ; the thoughts that you could not 
speak I know, and the struggle of your soul, but 
stronger than all is the thought that he must 
not die." 

The King's daughter awoke, and behold, she 
was no longer in her own chamber, but stood 
beside the sleeping stranger. Moonlight fell 
upon his face, and hair of ruddy gold, and the 
drawn sword by his side, and she looked at him 
long before she aroused him with a touch of her 
hand, calling him by name. 

" Who calls me ? " said Jason, springing to his 
feet and grasping his sword. 


" It is I, Medea," said the King's daughter ; 
" I am come to bid you fly from this house while 
it is yet night, for to-morrow Aietes purposes to 
slay you and your comrades. Come, awaken the 
others, and I will unbar the gates meanwhile; 
the guards shall not hear us, for I have power to 
keep them slumbering soundly." 

" Noble Medea," answered the prince, " I have 
seen strange things on my way hither, but here is 
the strangest of all, that you, who would have 
destroyed me with your potion, are now fain to 
save my life. I thank whatever god has changed 
your heart towards me, and praise your kindly 
thought, but as for flight, neither I nor my 
true comrades will quit this place without the 
prize we are come in quest of." And thereupon 
he took Medea by the hand, and seated her 
beside him on the couch, and told her all the 
tale from the beginning, of the task Pelias laid 
upon him, and the Argo's perilous voyage. 
Now, while he spoke of the dangers he had 
passed, and pleaded with her in sweet persuasive 
words for help to win the Golden Fleece, pity 
and love overflowed the heart of the witch- 
princess, and she forgot all the world but him 
only, and promised at last to aid him to the 
uttermost against her father. "For your sake, 
prince," she said, " I will brave the wrath of 
Aietes, though he kill me when he finds his 


treasure gone, and ask but this for reward, that 
you think sometimes of Medea when you dwell 
happily in that far southern home you tell me of." 

Then Jason vowed a solemn vow that he would 
not leave her to suffer her father's vengeance, but 
take her home to be his wife, and queen of fair 
lolcos, and they plighted troth together in that 
same hour. Medea then fetched from her own 
chamber an ivory box of ointment, and bade him 
anoint himself therewith in the morning, and 
told him all else that he must do to outwit the 
crafty King. Thus did Queen Hera, with help of 
Aphrodite, accomplish victory for Jason over the 
enchantress, who else would have proved a foe 
too strong for him and all his crew. 

No sooner had the King and his guests broken 
fast on the morrow, than he said to them, " Let 
him that is captain among you now declare the 
cause of your coming hither " ; and Jason made 
himself known to him, and in courteous words 
desired him to restore the Golden Fleece to the 
rightful heirs of Phrixus. Aietes heard him in 
silence to the end ; then he arose and beckoned 
Argo's crew to follow him, and they went after 
him, wondering, to a fallow field hard by the 
palace. There they saw a huge plough of bronze 
lying, and two dun oxen stood near it, wondrous 
to behold ; they had horns and hoofs of bronze, 
and breathed forth smoke and flame from their 


nostrils. The King marked with his staff a 
furlong on the ground, took up the heavy brazen 
plough-yoke, and yoked those great beasts there- 
with, heedless of their scorching breath, that 
burnt black the grass around them, and the 
furious tossing of their terrible horns. Then, 
taking in hand a sharp-pointed goad of iron, 
he drove the oxen to the mark, and turned them, 
and so back again, cleaving the fallow soil with 
furrows deep and straight. And his guests 
watched with speechless amaze so great a marvel, 
till he unyoked his team beside them, and said, 
" If your chief can do as you have seen me do, 
the Golden Fleece shall be his. But I am sworn 
to give it to no man who cannot yoke my oxen 
and plough with my plough." Straightway 
Jason stripped off his saffron vesture and stepped 
boldly to the task, putting his trust in divine aid. 
Even as Aietes had done, so did he ; he took up 
the yoke as it were a feather's weight, laid it on 
the necks of the oxen, despite their plungings 
hither and thither, and goaded them forward 
with the one hand, while with the other he bore 
hard upon the plough-stilts, driving a true furrow 
alongside the King's. Aietes looked to see him 
scorched to a cinder when he approached the 
fire-breathing bulls, but the flames had no power 
on his flesh by reason of Medea's enchanted 
ointment, and a wordless cry broke from the 


King, beholding him unscathed, and the god-like 
strength that was in him. But all Jason's com- 
rades shouted with a great shout when the task 
was done, and crowded about him to clasp his 
hands with praises and glad greetings, and they 
crowned him with a garland of flowering grasses. 
In silent rage the King now led the way to the 
grove of Ares, where hung the Golden Fleece, 
yet he still had hopes that Jason, for all his 
prowess, would not be able to achieve the task 
that there awaited him. For the Fleece had a 
guardian stranger and more terrible than the 
oxen whose breath was flame. The grove of 
Ares was a gloomy wood of ancient oaks, that 
stooped their gnarled boughs low over dense 
undergrowths of brambles and juniper. A stone 
altar stood before it, stained with dark blood, and 
far within, the green gloom was broken by a spot 
of radiance like the clear shining of a lamp. No 
voice of bird sounded in that drear wood, for all 
winged creatures shunned it except the wood- 
peckers, whose tapping was heard ever and anon 
in the deathly stillness. " Yonder light," said 
Aietes, "is the glitter of the Golden Fleece, and 
you, bold prince, will need no other guide to 
lead you thereto." 

" King," said Jason, who was forewarned by 
Medea's counselling, " I fear to lay hands upon 
the sacred thing till I have offered sacrifice upon 


this altar, and besought mighty Ares not to be 
wroth at the taking away of the treasure which 
Phrixus dedicated here. Suffer us therefore to 
return to our ship for the night, and to-morrow 
we will bring offerings to the god of such things 
as we have." Aietes gave them leave willingly, 
for now he feared Jason exceedingly, and was 
well content that he should either depart at 
once from the land, if such were his secret 
purpose, or meet his doom on the morrow 
from the guardian of the Fleece. And one of 
these things he trusted would most surely befall, 
for that guardian was a dragon of baleful glaring 
eye, whose dappled coils were in length and thick- 
ness not less than Argo's hull that had fifty oars. 
So the King returned to his house, and Jason and 
his comrades went towards the river where their 
ship lay. But when they had gone a little way, 
Jason told the others what had chanced in the 
night, and how the King's daughter had wrought 
him deliverance from the bulls, and shown him 
means to overcome a yet greater peril. When 
they heard of the dragon in the grove, they were 
full eager to fight the monster, and prayed their 
captain by no means to encounter him alone, but 
Jason said, " That task must be mine only, and with 
Medea to aid, I shall not fail, if the gods so will. 
Do you, my comrades, hasten to our ship, and make 
all ready to sail whenever I shall come to you." 


With that, he turned back and went alone to 
the dark grove, and at the setting of the sun, 
Medea came to him there. 

But his comrades went on board the Argo, and 
looked well to all her gear, and set her sails, and 
when they had taken their supper, they sat each 
man at his oar, waiting in silence through the 
first watch of the night, while the autumn moon 
rose golden up the sky. And at midnight, they 
were aware of two stately forms coming swiftly 
through the shadows of the wood, who seemed to 
carry between them a huge, glittering shield. 
Then the voice of Jason softly hailed them, and 
they saw that it was he and the witch-princess 
who drew near, bearing a spear athwart their 
shoulders, whereon hung the Fleece of Gold, 
shining like a sun. Without word spoken, those 
two laid their burden on Argo's deck, and Jason, 
with finger on lip, took his own place, and made 
sign to his crew to give way. Silently they bent 
to their oars, and the good ship stole out into the 
stream, and forth to the open sea. The helms- 
man turned her prow southward, but at that, 
Medea cried, " Princes, steer not homeward on 
the course by which you came, for that way will 
Aietes send to pursue you with a great host, and 
his ships sail fleeter than the wind through his en- 
chantments. Long must be your voyage, even 
half the circuit of the world, but if you will 


trust to me for piloting, I will guide you safe 
home at last." The comrades hearkened gladly 
to those wise words, and turned Argo northward 
again at her command, and sailed for many days 
over a desolate sea where no man had come since 
the making of the world. At last, where that 
sea narrowed into a gulf between hills of ice and 
snow, they came forth upon the boundless Ocean 
stream, that girdles the round world, and now, 
by Medea's guidance they steered eastward and 
southward, till the cold of the frozen north was 
left behind, and the sun's heat gladdened them 
again. Three moons had risen and set, while 
Argo bore them along the Ocean stream, before 
they saw on their right hand the red cliffs of a 
coast, and a wide channel of waters between. 

"Through yonder strait lies our way," said 
Medea, and they steered northward once again 
along that firth of ruddy shores. Now at the 
head of it, they found no passage for their ship, 
for dunes of yellow sand stretched before them, 
far as eye could see, and their hearts were dis- 
couraged. But Medea bade them draw Argo 
ashore, and said, " Beyond this sandy waste lies 
the Midland sea, whose waters wash the shores of 
your own dear land. Be not downcast, brave 
comrades, for in twelve days Argo shall ride on 
that sea once more, if with stout hearts you 
endure the toil of bearing her thither." So when 


they had rested there that night, she who had 
been their pilot over a thousand leagues of ocean, 
guided the crew across the pathless desert, and 
they, by main strength hoisting the ship to their 
shoulders, marched onward thus laden under a 
burning sun. Never in their long seafaring had 
they known a labour like this, but the spirit of 
the heroes and the might of their young limbs did 
not fail nor falter in all that toilsome journey. 
On the twelfth day, the glittering of water was 
seen among the sandhills, and they pressed on- 
ward joyfully, till they came to the margin of a 
vast and shallow mere. Now when they would 
have drunk of its water, they could not, for it was 
brackish, but Medea cast a certain herb therein, 
and forthwith it was sweetened. Then she said 
to them, " This water is bitter with brine of the 
sea that neighbours it. Launch Argo now upon 
the mere, and let us seek a channel among the 
shallows that may bring us to the open main." 

So they pushed off from the reedy bank, and 
rowed slowly, steering warily through the shallows 
of that great lagoon, till the helmsman saw blue 
water sparkling ahead, and cried, " The sea, the 
sea ! ' Then the glad heroes plied their oars 
with fresh vigour, and ere nightfall Argo was 
anchored in a bay of the Midland deep. 

At early dawn, when they had hoisted sail and 
were drawing up the anchors, a voice hailed them 


from the shore, and they turned in wonder to see 
who might call them in that lonely place. There, 
at the waves' edge stood a man, stately and tall, 
and greeted them with kindly words, and desired 
them to tarry awhile, and be his guests that day. 
But Jason and the rest made courteous excuse, 
pleading their haste to be at home. " Friends," 
said the stranger, " I will not seek to delay you, 
but at least take a guest-gift from my hands, for 
I would fain show you hospitality. I am the 
king of this desert land, and I know who you 
are, and the quest you sailed on. Be pleased to 
take this boon, the only one I have at hand." So 
saying, he stooped down and took up a clod of 
earth of the shore, and held it forth to them. 
Now Argo's prow was nearest to the land, for 
thereby she had been moored, as the manner was, 
and it was not yet turned seaward, and he that 
stood nearest her curved beak was a young prince 
named Euphemos. He, springing to the bulwark, 
leapt lightly ashore, and clasped hands with the 
stranger, and took the clod, and knew not what 
gift that was, nor who gave it. But as he sprang 
on board again, and turned to speak thanks and 
farewell, the stranger vanished where he stood, 
and awe came on all the comrades, understanding 
that they had seen the god of that wilderness. 
Nevertheless, they set forth again rejoicing, because 
he had shown them favour and blessed them with 


a gift. Euphemos showed the clod to Medea and 
asked her what it might betoken, and she answered 
that the time was not yet come for him to know, 
but he must look well to the keeping of it, because 
there was a magic in it. 

But when they had sailed three days, a gale 
blew from the south-west at twilight, and the 
waves rose high round the ship, and the enchanted 
clod was washed from the deck, where it was laid, 
by the driving spray. Then Euphemos called 
aloud to Medea, " Alas, wise Lady, what shall I 
do ? The precious thing is lost, carried overboard 
by a dashing wave, and it is sunk into the depths 
of the sea." 

" Nay," said Medea, " it has not sunk, for there 
is a magic in it, but is drifting even now to the 
shore of yonder island on our lee. Listen, heroes 
all, and I will tell you what power is in the clod, 
and what will come of it. It is fated that where- 
ever it is laid upon the ground, the lord of that 
land shall be lord also of the soil whence it was 
taken. And if Euphemos had brought it to the 
fields of his own fair domain, and planted it there, 
then in the day when his children's children will 
seek new lordship over seas, they would have 
sailed to the land where we saw the solitary god, 
and made it their kingdom. But now, because 
the clod is flung by the salt waves on the strand 
of yonder isle, that is yet uninhabited, seventeen 


generations of men must pass away before the 
god's gift bears fruit. For the descendants of 
Euphemos will make their new home in that 
island, which then shall be called Thera, and long 
after, they will voyage thence to the land of the 
clod, and reign there as kings of many cities." 
The comrades listened in silence to Medea's 
prophecy, and pondered it in their hearts, and 
Euphemos ever after kept it in memory, teaching 
it to his sons, and they to theirs. And in the 
seventeenth generation the words were fulfilled. 

But now the gale freshened to a tempest, and 
Argo was driven before it out of her true course, 
and her crew were fain to run her for shelter 
under the white cliffs of another island, far to 
northward. There they found a fair haven where 
they anchored, and forthwith, an armed host 
came out to them from the city nigh at hand. 
Argo's men stared at these warriors with amaze, 
for they were women, and their leader, a tall, 
black-haired girl, clad in rich armour. She came 
to the harbour-side and greeted the strangers, 
asking who they were, and if they came peaceably. 

" Peaceably, in truth, O Queen," answered Jason. 
"We are men of lolcos, homeward bound from 
a long seafaring, and we do but seek shelter here 
till the storm is overpast. Tell me, I pray you, 
what land this is, and wherefore its warriors are 
women." " Stranger," said the armed maiden. 



"This island is Lemnos, and my father was king 
of it. He and all our men-folk went forth to 
war against certain pirates of the mainland, and 
while they were abroad, Aphrodite took displeasure 
at us women, because we slighted her worship, 
and she caused us to become utterly hateful to 
our fathers and husbands when they returned. 
Therefore they thrust us away from bed and 
board, and would have taken them wives of the 
captives they brought home, but we, thus wronged, 
banded together for revenge, and slew them while 
they slept, with their own swords. Not one did 
we spare, except my father, but him, though I 
had sworn to show no mercy, I hid in a great 
chest, and had it thrown into the sea, that, if the 
gods so willed, he might drift to some other 
shore. Since then, I, Hypsipyle, am Queen, and 
none but women dwell in Lemnos. Arms we 
have, as you see, and have learnt the skill of them, 
to defend ourselves against all comers, but you, 
if you are what you say, we will welcome as 

Jason had little will to enter that city of dark 
deeds, and consort with those women of fierce 
nature, but Medea said, " Our ship was blown 
hither not without divine purpose. Let us go 
ashore, and lodge with the Queen, as she would 
have us." So they sojourned seven days in 
Lemnos, for all that time the wind blew rough 


and contrary. Queen Hypsipyle entertained the 
comrades royally, and held games in their 
honour, setting forth prizes of golden goblets 
and broidered mantles for running and wrestling 
and throwing the spear. For these the warrior- 
women contended with the heroes, and overcame 
not a few of them, for they were cunning wrestlers, 
and marvellous fleet-footed. But in feats of 
strength they could not match Jason and his 
men, nor in the race for which the Queen gave 
the richest prize of all, a silver shield, embossed 
with wild bulls, and hunters driving them into 
the toils. That race was run by seven of the 
heroes in full armour, carrying their heavy shields, 
and there was laughter among the women when 
the seventh, whose name was Erginos, stepped to 
the starting-place, because he, though yet young, 
was grey-haired. Yet he outstripped the rest, 
and came foremost to the goal, and the mockers 
were ashamed when he took the silver shield, 
and the victor's garland from the Queen's hands. 
After this, the strangers found great favour with 
the island maidens, who would fain have had 
them for their wedded lords, and Hypsipyle 
made offer to Jason of her hand and kingdom, 
if he would abide in Lemnos. Now she was 
more beautiful than the Colchian enchantress, 
and Jason's heart was drawn to her, but false to 
his word he could not be, and that was given to 


Medea. But some of his comrades took them 
brides among the Lemnian damsels, and of these 
was Euphemos ; and Medea, at his wedding, 
prophesied good fortune to the marriage, more- 
over, the gods, she said, had willed him to find a 
wife in that island, for which very cause they had 
driven Argo to its coast. And the truth of her 
saying was quickly made manifest, for that very 
day the wind blew fair again for lolcos, so that 
the heroes longed to set sail for home without 
delay. They listened not to any pleading, but 
made Argo ready for sea, and put their island 
brides on board, and went their way. This was 
the last of their seafaring ; the kindly breeze 
never failed till they dropped anchor once again 
in the haven where their good ship first floated. 

Here ends the story of Jason's quest for the 
Golden Fleece, for it needs not to tell the joy 
of his father and of all lolcos at his home- 
coming, nor how the brave comrades took 
farewell, when they had seen him receive the 
kingdom from Pelias, who durst not draw back 
from his oath to yield it. Jason and Medea were 
wedded with splendour and rejoicings, and there- 
after they had such happiness as seemed good to 
the gods. But as for Pelias, although Jason did 
him no violence, he did not escape the death that 
was to be dealt him by his own kindred. For 
his daughters heard that Medea had made old 

_: -v 

THE >:i:w YORK 




Aeson young again by her spells, and entreated 
her to do the like for their father. Then the 
enchantress killed an old ram before them, and 
cut it in pieces, and threw the pieces with magic 
herbs into a boiling cauldron, and when she had 
said certain words over it, forthwith she drew out 
a lamb, alive and unhurt. And she gave a hand- 
ful of herbs to the daughters of Pelias, saying, 
" Do to your father as you have seen me do to 
this sheep, which has become a lamb again." 
The princesses did so, but Medea had given them 
common herbs, and they had not bethought them 
to ask what those words were which she said over 
the cauldron, therefore they could not bring their 
slain father to life again. Thus perished Pelias, 
even as the oracle had forewarned him, by a doom 
that had its beginning in the coming to lolcos of 
the lad with one sandal. 



KING AIPYTOS of Arcadia was a lonely 
man when he grew old, for he had neither 
son nor daughter, and his queen was dead. There 
were no cities in his country, which was a land of 
wooded hills, and green dales dotted with count- 
less sheep, and few strangers crossed the steep 
mountains that shut it in on every side. All the 
King's wealth was in his flocks and herds ; his 
palace was built of oaken timbers, and no one 
ever wished to make war upon him, because he 
had little silver and less gold in his dwelling to 
tempt a spoiler. So there was nothing for him 
to do, after he was grown too old to go hunting, 
save to drive his sleek mules and well-burnished 
car about the uplands, visiting his sheepfolds, 
or the solitary huts of his woodcutters and 
goatherds. One day in summer time, while he 
watched the sheep-shearing on a hillside, two 
serfs came out of the oak woods where they 
herded his swine, driving a fat hog before them 



for the shearers' supper, and the elder was carry- 
a little child on his shoulder. 

"Is that child yours, swineherd ?" said King 
Aipytos. " How comes it then that she is 
arrayed so finely, and is white of skin as any 
princess ? " 

" She is none of mine, lord King," said the 
swineherd. "It was but yesterday I found her 
in the woods, sleeping alone under a pine tree. 
I have brought her hither to know if it may 
please you to have her reared in your house, 
for it is well seen she is no peasant brat, but one 
that will scarce thrive on my rough fare of roots 
and acorn bread." 

The King looked upon the foundling, and his 
heart was touched by her flower-like face. " I will 
rear her as my own," he said. " Surely the gods 
have sent her, to bring joy into my childless house." 

So the child was brought up in the palace, and 
King Aipytos loved her as a daughter, and gave 
her the name of Evadne. She could remember 
nothing, before her finding by the swineherd, 
except that she had fallen asleep under the pine 
tree in the lap of a lovely lady, with tresses 
black as night, who sang her a lullaby. 

" Was that my mother ? "' she would ask the 
King, " and what was her name ? ' 

Then he would answer, " Certainly it was your 
mother, and her name is Pitane." 


For Pitan means " Lady of the Pine," and he 
guessed that Kvadne's mother was the Wood 
Fairy who haunted that pine tree. But he never 
guessed that this Fairy herself had sent him her 
child to take care of, because she knew her tree 
was going to fall, and as soon as that happened, 
she would be no more. This is the fate of all the 
Wood Fairies, for they are the souls of the trees 
they inhabit, and they always know when their 
own tree is about to die. Therefore Evadne's 
Fairy mother had invisibly led the swineherd 
where her babe lay sleeping, and she whispered, 
"Take her to the King," so softly in his ear that 
he fancied the words were only a thought which 
came to him while he heard the pine tree rustle 
in the breeze. 

Now Evadne, when she grew a maiden, seemed 
beyond all doubt the true daughter of that lovely 
Lady of the Pine ; her slender body had the grace 
of a tall sapling, and her hair the blackness of 
fir woods when you see them against the sun- 
set. That dusky hair is the chief glory of the 
Pine Fairies, though some say it is less beautiful 
than the auburn curls of their sisters who are 
Ladies of the Beeches, or the flaxen locks of 
those others whose haunt is the Silver Birch. 

King Aipytos thought it not strange that the 
child of such a mother should love to wander 
in the woodlands, gathering flowers and berries, 


rather than to weave at the loom and broider 
robes like other maidens, nor did he ever hinder 
Evadne from roving early and late to her heart's 
content. But as time went on, it was told him 
once and again by his herdsmen and shepherds 
that she wandered not alone; they had seen a 
golden-haired stranger walking beside her through 
forest glades, or sitting at her feet in some moun- 
tain meadow. 

The King was grieved that his foster-child 
should meet a lover in secret, as though she 
feared he would forbid her the desire of her 
heart, and he said to her, " My child, you are of 
the age when maidens are wedded, and it may 
well be that you have seen some youth whom 
you think worthy of your hand. If it be so, 
fear not to tell me, for I would gladly see you 
made a bride before I die, though my house will 
lack its one jewel when you leave it." 

Evadne answered, blushing rosy red, "More 
than a father have you been to me, and I will 
never leave you. I have seen no mortal whom I 
would choose for my lord." 

Yet after this she kept away from the King's 
presence, and would often pass whole days and 
nights in the summer woods. At last he was 
sure that the maiden had some secret which she 
would not tell him, and he thought he would 
journey to the holy temple at Delphi and ask 


counsel of the priestess, for his mind was sorely 
troubled by this thing. Many leagues he journeyed 
in his mule-chariot over the Arcadian mountain 
passes and over the lands beyond, till he came to 
the rocky glen that is called Delphi, where the 
god Apollo gives oracles to men from his golden 
shrine, speaking by the mouth of his priestess. 
Now the inner chamber of that temple is built 
over a deep cleft in the rock, and a three-legged 
stool of gold is set over the cleft, whereon the 
priestess sits when she makes reply to those 
who inquire of the god. For a cloudy vapour 
rises out of the cleft at certain seasons, and 
while it floats round the priestess she falls into 
a trance and chants divine words of prophecy or 
counsel, according as Apollo wills her to give his 

King Aipytos offered sacrifice and burnt sweet 
incense on the temple altar, and the priestess bade 
him speak his request to Apollo, while she entered 
the inner shrine, where none else might set foot, 
and took her seat on the golden stool. Then he 
prayed to know why it was that Evadne passed 
all her days in the lonely woods, and kept her 
doings there a secret, even from him to whom 
she had ever been dutiful and loving. " Lord of 
Truth," he said, " show me what will come of 
this, be it good or evil ; no longer may I endure 
to live in fear of some mischief to befall, dreading 


from day to day lest the maiden come home no 
more, and I lose the light of my old eyes for 


As the King made an end of speaking, the cloud 
filled the holy place and hid the form of the 
priestess from his sight. He knew that it was 
her voice which came to him out of the cloud, 
yet now it rang so loud and silver-clear that it 
seemed the voice of the god himself. " King of 
Arcadia," it sang, " return in peace to your home, 
for great joy waits you there. Behold I, even I 
myself, gave a gift to fair Evadne in the green- 
wood, and charged her to watch it well, keeping 
it hidden from all eyes. But now the time is at 
hand when my secret purpose shall be revealed, 
and you shall know the blessing that I have 
wrought you to recompense your Jove for your 
foster-child. Say therefore to the maiden, ' Apollo 
bids you show me his gift.' And in token that 
it is a true message, say also, ' The gift he gave 
you on that day when, laying aside your scarlet 
girdle, you rested by the spring where you had 
filled your silvern pitcher.' " 

Joyfully then the King sped him home again, 
but Evadne met him with never a smile, and her 
face was pale as death. And when she heard the 
message of the god, she broke into long weep- 
ing. " Alas, my father," she said at last, " these 
five days past I have sought in vain for Apollo's 





C L. 


gift, till my heart was like to break. Awhile I 
kept it safe in a green bower that I built with 
hazel-twigs in a lonely dell, but now it is gone, I 
know not how, unless some wild beast has carried 
it away." 

" What can the gift be, then," said Aipytos, 
" if wild beasts could make prey of it ? Tell me 
at least what it is, since you cannot show it me as 
the god bade." 

" I will tell you," she said, " both what it is 
and how it came to me. Many a time I had 
sight in the woods of beautiful shapes that I knew 
were not human creatures ; some of them were 
like my Fairy mother, and there were others that 
rose out of the mountain streams or skipped on 
the sheer crags. I longed to speak with them, 
but always they vanished when I came near, till 
at last I saw one more glorious than them all, 
whose countenance shone like the sun. Golden- 
haired he was, and had a bow and quiver slung on 
his white shoulder. He did not fly me, like the 
rest, but gave me gentle greeting, and we had 
sweet speech together then and many another day. 
That gracious friend told me not his name, but I 
learnt it ere long, for I heard the Wood Fairies 
whispering ' Apollo ' as we walked together in 
the forest glades. Then I was afraid, for who 
was I to have companionship with so great a god ? 
But Apollo bade me have no fear ; only a little 


while could he stay in Arcadia, and then he must 
leave me for his heavenly dwelling, and I, he 
said, must content me with the lot of a mortal 
maiden in the house of my foster-father. And he 
left me at last, one noon-tide, beside a spring, 
where I had given him drink from my silvern 
pitcher, and loosed my scarlet girdle, and lain 
down to sleep. In my sleep, methought that he 
laid a purple pansy on my bosom, and said, ' I 
give you Heartsease, Evadne, for a farewell gift. 
Guard it well, and speak of it to none, until the 
hour that shall be told you.' At that I woke, 
and behold he was gone ; but instead of the 
pansy, a dark-eyed babe was lying on my breast." 

" This is a strange marvel," said Aipytos, " yet 
now I see plainly the purpose of the god. Doubt- 
less he has given this child for a gladness and a 
blessing to my house. Take comfort, daughter, 
for he will surely be found, and Apollo will not 
have suffered harm to befall him." 

Then the King and all his men made great 
search in the woods, and Evadne also went with 
them. At close of day they came upon a dingle 
filled breast-high with fern, and heard a cooing 
sound like baby laughter in the midst of the 
covert. Evadne sprang through the tangled 
bracken, Aipytos following with the best speed 
of his old limbs. A wondrous sight it was that 
met their eyes in the heart of the brake ! There 


nestled in a bed of pansies, lay the lost child, his 
tender body aglow with the golden and purple 
gleams from the flowers, that burned like jewels 
in the broad rays of sunset. On either side of 
him was coiled a bright-eyed snake, holding in its 
mouth a piece of honeycomb, and with that they 
fed the Pansy Baby, while he stroked their emerald 
necks, laughing in delight. But Evadne trembled 
for the child, and at her cry of dread, those two 
strange guardians glided away. Then she caught 
him in her arms, and gave him to the King, saying, 
" Father, Apollo's gift is to you also. Let this 
boy be a son to you in your old age." So they 
returned to the palace, glad at heart, and Evadne 
called the child lamos, which in the speech of 
Arcadia means Heartsease. 


KING AIPYTOS died at last in a green old age, 
having lived to see the Pansy Child grow up a 
tall and comely youth, and he left him heir to all 
that was his. But the folk of Arcadia were ill- 
pleased that a stranger born should rule over 
them, and they murmured, saying, "Are there 
not kinsmen of our dead King in the land, to 
take his inheritance ? Would that one of them 


were lord over us, for as for this lamos, we know 
neither his father nor his kindred." And the 
old men said, " There is not under the sun so 
ancient a land as Arcadia, but now the glory is 
departed from it, for a kinless waif sits in the 
seat of a hundred kings." 

These sayings came to the ears of lamos, and 
he was troubled, not knowing what they meant. 

" Mother," he said to Evadne, " what is this 
the people say, that I am no rightful heir of 
Aipytos ? Are not you his daughter, and am 
not I your child ? Yet they call me a stranger 
and an upstart." Then Evadne told him all the 
story of his birth, and how he had no mortal 
father, but was the gift of that bright-haired god 
who loved her long ago. 

" I know," she said, " that Apollo will love 
you also for my sake, and he promised that his 
favour should always rest on me and mine. So 
now, if you are troubled at the murmuring of 
the folk, entreat him to befriend you, and show 
you a way to deal with them." 

" Must I seek the god in his house at Delphi ? '' 
asked lamos. 

"Nay," said Evadne, "there is no need to 
journey so far. Go this night into the woods, 
and it may be he will speak to you there, if you 
call upon him." 

lamos went forth at midnight into the dark 


heart of the forest, and came by winding mossy 
ways to a leafy hollow, where a streamlet tinkled 
unseen in the gloom. A faint, sweet scent that 
he knew rose from the ground ; he could not see 
what flowers were at his feet, but he felt sure 
they were pansies, and when he stooped and 
gathered one, it was indeed his namesake, the 
heartsease. " Here," he thought, " where Apollo's 
token blooms, I will call upon his name." He 
slid down the flowery bank, and stood barefoot in 
the running brook, for all streams were holy, and 
men were wont to enter their pure water when 
they would implore the presence of the stainless 
gods. Then, having bathed his hands and fore- 
head, he stretched his arms skyward, saying, 
" God of the Silver Bow, glorious Apollo, draw 
near and hearken to my prayer. 1 knew not, till 
this day, that King Aipytos was not my grand- 
sire, but now it were hateful to me to dwell in 
Arcadia, bearing the reproaches of the folk, who 
would fain have a king of the ancient royal 
blood. Lead me, I pray, to another land, and 
another people, and give me rule over them, 
that so I may found a kingdom, and make myself 
a name among men." 

When he had thus spoken, a voice called far 
off in the darkness, " lamos, my son." 

"Who calls me?" said the lad, trembling, and 
the voice answered, near at hand, " One who 



will be to you a father and perform the promise 
he made to Evadne in the days of her youth. 
Follow me now in the way that I am going, till we 
come to the fair place that shall be your home." 

lamosfelt that a presence stood close beside him 
in the dark hollow, but he could discern no form or 
feature through the gloom. " Gracious Apollo," 
he said, " lead me where you will, yet how shall I 
tread in the footsteps of a guide I cannot see ? " 
But now the voice came from farther down the 
stream, calling " Hither to me," and he hastened 
after it, and ever, as he sped onward through the 
mirk of the woods, he heard it crying before him, 
" Follow, follow." No other sound broke the 
deep hush of night, save the rippling of the 
stream, now nearer and now more distant, as 
they took their way along the narrow vales 
through which it flowed. It seemed to lamos 
that his limbs were become strangely light, and his 
feet went swifter than ever before ; tirelessly he 
raced on and on, and never tripped or stumbled, 
though he could not see a spear's length before 
him under the star-proof forest boughs. At last, 
in the first greyness of dawn, he found himself in 
an open valley, where the stream, now broadened 
to a river, ran between wide and level meads. 
The voice he had followed was silent, and he 
cried aloud, " Whither now, Apollo ? ' 

"Look yonder," said the voice beside him, 


"where the valley widens into a plain under that 
low wooded hill. There, hard by the ford of 
the river, stands a temple of my brother Poseidon, 
and near it is the tomb of a king. That is the 
place where you must make your dwelling, and 
though it be solitary now, it shall be thronged in 
days to come by the great ones of the earth." 

Now lamos had hoped that Apollo would 
bring him to some fair city, and he marvelled in 
his heart what kingship could be his in that lonely 
valley. Also, he desired exceedingly to behold 
him face to face, and he said, " O heavenly guide, 
if this be my journey's end, deign to show your- 
self to your servant before you depart, for the 
darkness of the night is gone." But looking 
eagerly round he still saw no one, and the in- 
visible god answered, " My son, of two things 
you shall now choose one, for to have them both 
is not granted to any mortal. Either you shall 
see me this once face to face, or you shall hear 
me speaking to you henceforth whenever you 
will, as you hear me now, and talk with me as a 
man talks with his friend." 

Then lamos, when he had thought a little 
while, said, " I choose to hear your voice ; so 
shall I always find counsel for every need." 

"You have chosen well," said Apollo, "hence- 
forth great shall be your fame in this land, for 
by communing with me, who know all things 


in heaven and earth, and all that is to come, you 
will become the wisest of seers. Moreover, your 
wisdom shall pass to your children, called after 
your name, and they shall have the gift of sooth- 
say for all time, though it will not be granted 
them to hear my voice, lest, being mortals, they 
boast of possessing the wisdom of gods. Go 
now and dwell yonder by the river until you 
see one coming to the ford, girt with a lion-skin 
and bearing a bow ; that comer will build an 
altar to a mightier god than Poseidon, and a 
new gift will be given you in that day, whereby 
you and yours may reveal truth to men." 

So lamos went and lodged in Poseidon's temple, 
and took service there, hewing wood and draw- 
ing water for the sacrifices, and the folk of the 
country gave him food from the offerings they 
brought to the god. But he did not long hold 
that lowly office before Apollo's word began to 
be fulfilled, for it was soon noised abroad that 
the stranger youth who served so diligently in 
the temple had marvellous skill in the art of 
a seer, and his true answers to all who inquired 
of him about things to come were talked of far 
and near. At last the King of the land himself 
came to visit him, and bade him interpret a 
dream that he had dreamed. lamos gave him no 
answer till he had spoken secretly with Apollo ; 
then he declared the meaning of the dream, and 


what he foretold from it came straightway to 
pass. After this, the King would have had him 
dwell in his palace in the city, but since lamos 
would not leave the place appointed by the god, 
he built him a goodly house there. The young 
seer would take no rewards from poor folk when 
they came to him for prophecies, but from the 
great of the land he took such gifts as they 
pleased to bestow, so that his wealth increased 
with his fame. 

Now this King, whose name was Augeas, was 
very rich in flocks and herds, and he kept a 
thousand oxen stalled in a great byre near his 
house. The byre was never cleansed from year's 
end to year's end, and at length the oxen stood 
so deep in filth that it bred a murrain among 
them. Then Augeas set his herdsmen to cleanse 
the stalls, but none of them had strength to 
endure that noisome labour, and he took counsel 
of lamos what were best to be done, who bade 
him send heralds abroad to offer a rich recompense 
to whoever would clear the byre of its foulness. 
The King did so, and not many days after, lamos 
saw a man coming to the ford of the river, girt 
with a lion-skin, and bearing a great bow. " This 
is the comer," he thought, and he went to meet 
the stranger, and asked him his name. 

" I am called Heracles," said he with the 
bow, " and I seek King Augeas, for I hear word 


of a service he needs. If he will pay the price 
I ask, I will cleanse his byre for him, and that 
in one day." " I will bring you to him," said 
lamos, and they went together to the house of 
the King. Augeas believed it impossible for one 
man to do that work even in a year, so he 
readily promised the stranger the price he asked, 
which was a hundred of the oxen. Then Heracles 
asked for a mattock and a spade, and they were 
given him amid laughter and gibing from the 
King and his men, who deemed him crazed in 
his wits. And when Heracles began to dig a 
wide trench at the door of the byre, they 
laughed the more. But he, with more than 
mortal strength, dug that trench right across 
the fields that lay between the city and the 
river, and when he came to the ford he built 
a dam of earth and stones athwart the stream, 
so that it was turned from its course and flowed 
into the trench. And the waters, rushing through 
their new channel, flooded the byre, and washed 
away the dung-heaps that filled the stalls, and 
poured in a torrent down to a pool beneath the 
city walls. From morning to evening Heracles 
wrought at that task without rest, and before 
sunset the byre was cleansed. Then, lest the 
waters should swamp the city, he went in haste 
to break down the dam at the ford, and they 
returned again to the river-bed. 


But when he claimed his reward of the hundred 
oxen, an evil thought came to Augeas, and he 
said, " What mean you, stranger ? I take the 
gods to witness I made no such promise. Shall 
I give a hundred oxen for the hire of one day's 
labour? That wage you shall never have of 
me, unless you can prove that I promised it." 
This he said cunningly, for it had so chanced 
that lamos did not go with Heracles into the 
King's presence, and none of his household was 
with Augeas when he gave the promise except 
Phyleus, his young son. So the false King, who 
thought his son was even such as himself, now 
called for lamos, and said, " Let the seer judge 
between us, for he is just and holy." And 
lamos said, " Is there not a witness who can 
say which of the two speaks truly, King Augeas 
or the stranger ? " " Here is Phyleus my son," 
answered the King, " who was present at our 
talk together, and can bear witness that I did 
not promise the hundred oxen." But the young 
prince blushed red with shame for his father's 
guile, and said, " Nay, my father, you did pro- 
mise them, for I heard you." At that Augeas 
was very wroth, and for all lamos could say 
against it, he banished his son out of the land 
on pain of death, and commanded his servants 
to drive both him and Heracles forth from the 
palace. Heracles could have overcome them all 


single-handed, yet for the sake of Phyleus, and 
lest harm should come to him, he departed 
without another word, taking the lad with him. 
But lamos shook off the dust from his sandals 
on the King's threshold, and said, " Woe to this 
house, and woe to Augeas, because of the thing 
he has done this day ! I say to you, O perjured 
King, that I will see your face no more, for the 
god whom I serve abhors lying and deceit." 
Augeas had a mind to slay him for these words, 
but he feared to lay hands on him because he 
was a prophet, and beloved by all the folk, and 
he let him go back to his own place. 

Not long after this, word came to the King 
that an army was marching upon his borders, and 
the captain of the host was the man clad in 
the lion-skin who had cleansed his byre. For 
Heracles had mustered his friends and comrades 
out of many cities to make war on Augeas, and 
he had with him all the fighting men of Arcadia, 
the birthplace of lamos, who were his sworn allies 
because of a service he had done them of old. 
There was a lake in Arcadia which was the home 
of a strange tribe of great water-fowl, and they 
preyed on human flesh, and were the terror of 
the land until Heracles scared them away for 
ever with the twanging of his mighty bowstring 
and the hissing flight of his arrows. This good 
deed the men of Arcadia kept in remembrance, 


and now they repaid it, as they had vowed to 
do. But the son of Augeas was not with that 
host, for Heracles had helped the lad to win 
himself a kingdom in the north country, where 
he lived prosperously all his days. Then King 
Augeas and his folk gave battle to the invaders 
before the gates of the city, and were put to 
utter rout, and the city was taken and set on 
fire. Now Heracles had given command to his 
host that they should give quarter to all, except 
the King only, therefore there was little slaughter 
that day, but Augeas himself met the doom he 
well deserved. All his wealth, and all the spoil 
of the city, Heracles divided with his comrades, 
and next day, they set forth with their booty 
heaped on ox-waggons, and with vast droves of 
cattle, to return to their homes. When they 
came to the ford of the river, lamos met them, 
and Heracles asked him what temple that was, 
and why it was built there, apart from any dwell- 
ings of men. " It is Poseidon's temple," said 
lamos, " which a prince who once ruled this land 
built in thanksgiving for a victory he won here 
by that god's help. Pelops was his name, and 
he came overseas from the East, where his father 
was a king of surpassing wealth and glory, whom 
men called the Favourite of the Gods." Then 
he told Heracles the story of the chariot-race, 
which has been told in this book already, and 


showed him the tomb of Pelops, who had bidden 
his sons bury him beside Poseidon's shrine. 

" I also," then said Heracles, " will build a 
temple here to the god who has given me victory 
this day, even to most high Zeus, my guardian 
and deliverer in all perils. And as Pelops 
ordained chariot-races to be run here for a per- 
petual memorial, I too will now hold a contest 
of young men in feats of speed and strength, and 
leave it in your charge, holy seer, to hold the like 
once in four years, keeping solemn festival, to 
the honour of Zeus." Thereupon he chose out 
rich prizes for the games from his share of the 
spoil, and gave the remainder to lamos, saying, 
" All this I dedicate to Zeus ; take it to your 
keeping, for I make you treasurer of his temple." 

So the hero and his comrades marked out a 
goodly space of the riverside meadow, and fenced 
it round with an earthen wall, and when they had 
built an altar of broad stones therein, they burnt 
sacrifices to Zeus. Then they held the contests, 
and made lamos the judge of them ; first there 
was a foot-race, next wrestling, and boxing, and 
throwing the stone quoit, and last a chariot-race, 
in honour of Pelops. Heracles himself took no 
part in the games, because he was the giver of 
the prizes, and so it was best, for though he was 
small of stature, his strength was as the strength 
of fifty men. At evening time, great fires were 


lighted by the stream, and sheep and oxen were 
roasted whole for the banquet, and all the host 
sat down to feast and to make merry. The 
lovely moon looked down in full-orbed splendour 
on their festival, and threw her golden light over 
plain and river. All that midsummer night the 
warriors held revel, with wine and song and 
minstrelsy, till the wood fires burned low, and 
the twittering of birds began to tell that dawn 
was near. Next noon-tide, Heracles marshalled 
the host for their journey, and bade lamos offer 
sacrifice on the new altar, praying Zeus to give 
some good omen at their setting forth. Then 
it was that the second gift of prophecy came to 
the young seer, as Apollo promised, for, looking 
on the fire of the altar, his mind was suddenly 
enlightened with strange knowledge, and he read 
plain signs of fate in the leaping flames. " Go 
in peace, Heracles," he cried ; " safe and speedy 
shall be your home-faring, as Zeus grants me to 
discern from the clear burning of the sacrifice. 
Henceforth, I know by Apollo's word to me, 
that I shall thus foretell good or ill hap to all 
who make offerings on this altar." 

So Heracles went his way with all his company, 
and lamos saw him no more until another day. 
But the seer fulfilled all the charge he laid upon 
him, and dwelt happy and greatly honoured in 
that holy place, serving the gods faithfully all 


his days. The gift of divining by fire re- 
mained ever after with him and his, according 
to Apollo's promise, and in the after ages, when 
the sacred Games that Heracles founded were 
become famous over the whole world, the 
prophets of the glorious sanctuary were the 
clan who had their name and lineage from the 
Pansy Child, 



^RAVELLERS in the ancient ages told that 
A Laconia was the fairest land of all the king- 
doms of the south. There you might journey 
all day through groves of citron and of orange, 
heavy with shining fruit, and sweet with blossom, 
and rest in the heat of noon-tide where the leafy 
sycamore and walnut trees made a pleasant shade 
on the river-banks. And there the nightingale 
sang all day long in the wayside copses, for the 
flowering myrtles grew so thickly that not a sun- 
beam could come through to tell her night had 
gone. But the travellers said that in all Laconia 
nothing could be seen more beautiful than the 
maidens of the land. Peasant-girl or king's 
daughter, they were all like queens to look 
upon, tall and stately and marvellous fair. Now 
there was once a maiden called Leda, and she 
was as far above the rest in beauty as the moon 
is brighter than the stars. It was said that the 
old chieftain, her father, came out of the north 


country to dwell in Laconia, and indeed her 
golden hair and milk-white skin showed plainly 
that she was of northern race. So there was 
much murmuring when the King chose her for 
his bride, instead of taking to wife a princess of 
his own kindred, and it was whispered among 
the old folks that bad luck would come of it. 

It happened, however, that the harvest that 
year was very great, and the King was at peace 
with all his neighbours. Moreover, Queen Leda 
was gentle and gracious to her household, and 
bountiful to the needy, so that the people began 
to forgive her for being a foreigner. The next 
year, in the spring, word came to her husband of 
a great hunting to be held in the mountains 
beyond the borders of his kingdom, to which 
many chiefs and princes were gathering, and he 
made ready to join them with a goodly company. 
Very busy were his men, sharpening and burnish- 
ing hunting-spears and knives, seeing to the 
horses, and to the great Laconian hounds of 
famous breed that could pull down wolf and 
wild-boar, and even the mountain-bull. Busy too 
was the Queen, looking well that her women 
prepared all needful food for the journey, and 
sorting out coverlets and bedding and garments 
for the King's use, for he would perhaps be 
many weeks among the hills. Then, when he 
was gone, the palace seemed to her silent and 


empty, and a strange sadness came into her heart. 
That night she lay long awake, and when at last 
she slept, her old nurse, who had crept in to 
watch her, saw the tears stealing down her cheeks. 
" Child of my heart," said the old crone, bending 
over her, " never may the dream come true that 
you weep to see." 

" Nurse," said Leda, starting up, " have I been 
asleep? Who spoke to me just now? Who 
came and told me " She could say no more, 
and hid her face in her hands. 

The old crone made the sign that drives away 
evil magic. " No one has entered, my Queen," 
she said. "Have I not kept watch at your 
chamber-door ? This was some dream ; come, 
let me hear it, it may be I can read it for you, 
and if it bodes misfortune (which the gods 
avert) you shall take counsel of some seer." 

" No, no," cried Leda, and wrung her hands. 
"To no one can I tell it. Let me alone, nurse." 

Nor could the nurse coax her into saying 
another word, and her silence vexed the old 
woman, who had no small skill in signs and 

Next morning, the Queen, as was then the 
custom of queens, herself gave orders to her 
women for all the work of the day ; and because 
the time had come round for a great washing of 
the household linen, she went down to the river 


to see that they did it properly. The younger 
handmaids were very merry over this work, 
which they liked much better than scrubbing 
and scouring, and weaving and spinning indoors. 
They knelt on the low bank and plunged the 
clothes into the shallow running water, and some 
of them tucked up their robes and paddled in to 
tread the clothes clean on the pebbly river-bed, 
just as Highland lassies used to do, not so very 
long ago. The sun was but just risen when they 
began their work, and all was done before the 
heat of the day set in. Then they took their 
pleasant meal of bread and figs and wine in the 
grassy meadow, and some lay down to rest, but 
the young girls began a game at ball. Many a 
happy day had Leda spent in this way in her girl- 
hood, and always, till to-day, she had loved to 
watch the sport and join in the laughter and 
singing, but now, because her heart was heavy, 
she went and sat a little way off from the others, 
thinking strange thoughts. "See," cried a girl 
presently, as she tossed up the ball, "see those 
two great birds flying overhead ! " 

" Birds, said you," croaked the old nurse, peer- 
ing up. " Ay, ay, wild geese, most like, of your 
feather, my girl. Well may they flock hither, if 
the old proverb hold true." 

" Your tongue is sharper than your eyes, old 
woman," laughed another handmaid, " for one of 


those birds is an eagle. Look, sisters, look, how 
fiercely he chases the other ! Round and round 
they fly and lower and lower. See, the other is 
wearied out ah, the beautiful creature, it is as 
white as snow." 

" It is a swan," said Leda coming forward. All 
now stood still to watch this strange chase. The 
swan was wearied out indeed, and its great white 
wings flapped ever more feebly as it circled 
downwards. Nearer and nearer it came to the 
spot where the women stood, till they shrieked 
and scattered in fear as the huge eagle swooped 
after it close to their heads. Only Leda did not 
move, and just as the beautiful bird sank at her 
feet, she threw her arms round it with a cry of 
pity, and shielded it with her mantle from those 
cruel claws. And, strange to tell, the eagle 
did not harm her. Up he soared into the sky, 
higher and higher he flew, till he was seen no 

Now all the women had fled towards the 
palace, for they made certain that the eagle 
would kill the Queen with one blow of his 
beak, and even the old nurse had hobbled off as 
fast as she could for terror. Leda was left alone 
with the swan on the river-bank. She drew her 
mantle off the trembling bird, and stroked its 
head and smoothed its silvery wings, and told it 
it was safe, for the eagle was gone. It seemed to 



understand her, and came closer to her side, look- 
ing into her face with its lustrous eyes. 

"Beautiful swan," she said, "why have you 
lingered in our country when winter has gone? 
Always, when the summer is over, we see your 
brothers and sisters come flocking from over the 
mountains, and they live all winter in the reed- 
beds of our river. But they fly back in the spring 
to their own land, the far North land that was 
once my father's home." " Lady," said the swan, 
" far is that land, but not so far as mine. Farther 
than ever swan has flown have I journeyed to look 
on one who is whiter than any swan." 

Then Leda trembled very much, for she knew 
that this was not a real swan, and that the gods 
could take any shape that pleased them, when 
they came among men, and she bowed herself 
humbly before the great bird. " Oh, my lord," 
she said, " be gracious to your handmaid. If 
indeed I speak to one of the blessed gods, tell 
me, I pray, by what name I may call you." This 
she said, because the Immortals were most par- 
ticular about being called by their right names. 
" Fear nothing, sweet Leda," said the swan. 
" As for my name, I am he whose servant is the 
eagle. And I bade him chase me in this shape 
to your feet, that I might learn if you are as kind 
as you are fair." Then Leda knew that King 
Zeus himself talked with her, and she was the 


more afraid. But the swan bent his arching 
neck, and laid his head gently on her arm. 
" Because you did not fear to save the hunted 
bird," he said, " ask what you will, and I will do 
it." Leda remembered her dream, and the tears 
sprang to her eyes. " Gracious Zeus," she said, 
" I know not what to ask. I have everything a 
queen can wish for, except children, and if you 
had come to me only yesterday, that is the gift I 
would have chosen. But last night I had a cruel 
dream. I thought I stood before the holy temple 
at Delphi, waiting while my husband inquired of 
the oracle if children should be born to us. 
Then a veiled messenger came out and said to 
me, ' The priestess has spoken. Twin children 
shall be born to King Tyndareus, an only son and 
an only daughter, and they shall both be slain 
while he yet lives.' At these words I awoke, 
weeping, and my nurse asked me my dream. But 
I dare not tell it to any one, for if the people 
hear of it, they will say, 'This is what comes of 
the King marrying an outlander,' and if my hus- 
band hears of it, his heart will be turned from me 
because I bring this evil on his house. Alas, 
alas ! that the King should go down to his grave 
childless, and leave no son to sit upon his throne. 
And I have heard, O mightiest of the gods, that 
even you cannot turn away their doom from 
hapless mortals." 


" You have heard truly, lady," the swan 
answered, " for a law that cannot be broken 
governs all things in earth and heaven. Great 
is the power of the gods, but it is like the power 
of the sea, whose terrible waves cannot pass their 
appointed bounds. Yet, with our help, the thing 
that must come to pass may bring with it more 
good than evil. So now take comfort, and when 
your children come, the swan's gift shall come 
with them. But remember that you tell no one 
whence it came, nor who it was you saved from 
the eagle." So saying, he flapped his broad wings 
as if to fly ; softly they brushed across Leda's 
eyes, and that instant she fell asleep. 

Meanwhile, the women who had rushed home 
to the palace crying that the Queen was killed, 
came back with guards and serving-men to look 
for her, and were very much astonished because 
they could see no trace of her. Stranger still, 
they could not find the spot where they had left 
her. The flat and grassy bank where they had 
spread the linen to dry was just as they had left 
it, but a little way up stream, where the Queen 
had stood, they saw instead of level meadow a 
bed of tall reeds and rushes. " We are bewitched," 
they cried. " Yonder, just where the river makes 
a bend, is the very spot where the swan alighted." 
But the men mocked them, and said, " Are you 
all crazed with fright, you silly wenches? What, 


did you play ball in a reed-bed ? Come, show us 
where you left our mistress, or it will be the worse 
for you." 

Now the old nurse had followed the others, 
crying and lamenting, and expecting every 
moment to see her lady lying dead. But when 
she saw the rushes waving where no rushes had 
been, it came into her mind that this might be 
the Water Fairies' doing. These Fairies, who were 
called Naiads in those days, are the gentlest and 
kindest of all (the Tree Fairies are kind-hearted 
too, but rather changeable, for their temper de- 
pends a good deal on the weather), and they 
delight in helping mortals in distress. One 
reason is, that many of them were once mortals 
themselves, who fell into the water, or jumped 
in to get away from some enemy, and so were 
drowned. The old nurse thought that one of 
them had most likely made the rushes spring up 
to hide Leda and the swan from the eagle. And 
she was very nearly right, only the Naiad had 
done it to make a bower for Leda while she 
rested. So the old crone went boldly forward, 
and pushed aside the screen of rushes. And 
there, with joy and wonder, they saw their Queen 
lying fast asleep, looking, as the old nurse said, 
just like a snow-white swan in its nest among the 

Weeks went by and months went by, and still 


King Tyndareus did not come home from the 
hunting. Word came that he had sworn friend- 
ship with another prince who had saved his life 
from a savage boar, and was gone to help him 
win back his kingdom from a usurper. All this 
time Leda kept the swan's secret, as he had 
bidden her, and when the old nurse questioned 
her about what had happened, she only smiled 
and spoke of something else. So the old crone 
told the other women that the Naiad had hidden 
the Queen by enchantment in the nick of time, 
and they all believed her, and often threw flowers 
and cakes into the river to please that good fairy. 
At last news was brought to the palace that the 
King had helped his friend to win a great victory, 
and was coming home with much spoil. Already, 
said the messenger, he was near at hand, and in 
two days' time he would enter the city. That 
same night the Queen had a little son and a 
little daughter, and they were put to sleep in 
two ivory cradles beside their mother's bed. Before 
sunrise next morning she was awakened by a sound 
like the flapping of wings. She looked round, and 
saw nothing only on the ledge of the open 
window lay a white feather. Then she leaned 
down and peeped into the cradles, and there, 
beside each baby, was a swan's egg among the 
pillows. "That is the gift," she thought, "but 
what can be the use of it ? " and she took one of 


the eggs in her hand to look at it. Instantly the 
shell cracked in two, and she saw inside it the 
loveliest baby, like a little doll. The tiny creature 
stretched out its arms to her and smiled ; then, 
quickly as you can blow a bubble, it grew in her 
hand till it was as large as other babies. Full of 
wonder, she took the egg from the other cradle, 
and the same thing happened. The two swan- 
children were as like as two peas, only the one 
she had taken from her little son's cradle was a 
baby boy, and the other was a baby girl. Leda 
knew that directly, because all new babies suck 
their thumbs if they are boys, and their fingers 
if they are girls. Then Leda began to think hard 
how she might keep the wonderful present with- 
out telling who had sent it. 

Now every one in the palace was so busy getting 
ready for the King's home-coming that only the 
old nurse could be spared to wait on the Queen, 
so no one else knew yet of her having twins. 
Leda resolved to show the old woman the swan- 
babies at once, and make her promise to give 
out that they also were the Queen's children. 
" I will bring them up as my own," she said to 
herself, " and so, even if my two poor little ones 
must die untimely, the King and I will not be left 
childless in our old age." And she gave thanks 
to Zeus for his gift. 

Quickly came the old nurse at her lady's call, 


and loud were her cries of wonder when she saw 
the swan-babies. She willingly promised never to 
tell any one they were not the King's children, 
for she said, " One never knows what may happen, 
and a king with one son is like a ship with one 
anchor." But when she asked eagerly if Leda 
had seen nothing and heard nothing of the babies' 
coming, the Queen only said, " They were here 
when I awoke." The old crone was very shrewd 
and terribly inquisitive, and she thought to her- 
self, " The Queen knows more than she will tell 
me, or why is she not more astonished at this 
marvellous thing ? She does not seem to think 
it the least surprising to wake up and find four 
babes instead of two. Something, for sure, has 
troubled her since that dream she had, and I 
shall have no rest till I find out what all this 
means." So thinking, she began prying round 
the room, and soon found two things that made 
her more curious than ever. On the window-sill 
was a white swan's feather, and under the cradle 
of the girl-babies was the broken shell of a swan's 
egg. Leda had hidden the other in her bed, but 
this one had fallen to the floor, and she forgot it. 
The cunning old crone said nothing, but the 
moment Leda's back was turned she picked up 
both eggshell and feather, and hid them in a 
coffer. "Some day," she thought, "these tokens 
may bring to light the truth." 


A happy man was King Tyndareus when he saw 
those lovely children, and they pleased him more 
than all the treasures he brought home with him. 

As time went on the two little princes grew up 
to be the handsomest and bravest lads that ever 
were seen in Laconia, and the two little princesses 
were the talk of the whole kingdom for their 
beauty. One of these maidens was dark-eyed 
and dark-haired, and her name was Clytaemnestra: 

' v 

the other, who was called Helen, was so enchant- 
ing in her loveliness that no one could refuse her 
anything, and everybody spoiled her. Strangely 
enough, although she was one of the swan- 
children, she had the same violet eyes and golden 
hair as Led a. The two princesses were sought in 
marriage by so many king's sons, that their father 
feared to bestow them on any lest the others 
should take offence and make war upon him. 
Therefore he invited all the suitors to a wedcjing- 
feast, and said to them, " Princes, my daughters 
shall make their own choice from among you, but 
first you shall take an oath that whoever they 
choose, all the rest of you will fight for my sons- 
in-law if ever they are in need of help." All the 
suitors agreed to this condition, and thus King 
Tyndareus made sure allies for himself and his 
family. The princesses were brought into the 
hall to see their suitors, and they chose the two 
sons of a king named Atreus, and were married 


that same day with great pomp and splendour. 
Now what befell them afterwards is the most 
famous of all stories, but here we bid them 
farewell, for this tale is about their brothers. 


AFTER the marriage of the two princesses, Queen 
Leda said to her sons : " It is time that you went 
on your travels, like other princes, in search of 
brides, and brought me home two new daughters 
to take the place of Helen and Clytaemnestra." 
But Castor and Polydeuces had no mind to be 
wedded, for they loved each other with a great 
love, and desired nothing else than to pass 
their whole lives together. So they said to 
their mother : " Why should we bring stranger 
women into our house, who like enough would 
stir up strife between us, and vex your heart 
also ? Nay, mother, we will let such things 
alone till we are older. Nevertheless, we will 
go on our travels and seek adventures as king's 
sons are wont to do." And they set out to see 
the world. Now these Twin Brethren had grown 
up so like one to the other that none could tell 
them apart, and neither the old nurse nor Leda 
herself knew whether Castor or Polydeuces was 
the swan-child. They went forth clad alike in 
silver armour, and Castor drove the white horses 


of their silver chariot, for although both were 
marvellous tamers of horses, he was the better 
charioteer. In the first city where they sojourned 
they heard tidings of the ship that was to sail 
from lolcos on the quest of the Golden Fleece, 
and how Prince Jason was gathering brave com- 
rades to go with him. Forthwith they hastened 
to join themselves to that company, and at lolcos 
they first saw Heracles, whose fame was already 
great in their own land, and they sailed with 
Jason in the ship Argo, and shared all those toils 
and perils set forth in the tale of "The Lad with 
One Sandal." Then, when Argo was come home 
again, and Jason had recovered the kingdom of 
his father, the Twins harnessed their white horses 
that were left in Aeson's charge, and journeyed 
southward to their own country. Their road led 
them to a strong-walled city with seven gates, and 
they entered one of the gates and asked the first 
man they met the name of the city, who told 
them it was Thebes. " Then we are come to the 
city of a friend," cried Polydeuces, " for Thebes 
is the home of Heracles. Is he here, stranger, 
or have you tidings of him since he sailed with 
the ship Argo ? We are his shipmates, but he 
went not far on that voyage before he parted 
from us." 

" He has been seen in Thebes since then," 
answered the stranger, " but he is ever coming 


and going, for he never wearies of adventures, 
and he is not here now. It is said he is gone 
into the West with an army to war on a king 
there who did him a foul wrong." 

" We will go after him, then," said the Twins, 
" and fight in his quarrel." 

But the man of Thebes prayed them, if they 
were friends to Heracles, to lodge with him that 
night, and he brought them to his house, and 
feasted them with the best. " Kind host," said 
Castor, presently, " may we know your name ? 
We would fain tell Heracles when we see him 
which of his neighbours has received us so 
hospitably for his sake." " My name is Am- 
phitryon," said their host, smiling, " and when 
you see Heracles, say that you lodged under his 
own roof-tree, for he is my son. In this house 
he was born after his mother and I fled hither 
out of Argos, our own city, from the power of 
a wicked king, and here, even in his cradle, Queen 
Hera sought to destroy him in her pitiless hate." 

"It seems then that the tales are true," said 
Polydeuces, " which say that the Queen of the 
Gods bears a deep grudge against your noble 
son, and has wrought him toil and trouble with- 
out ceasing. But as to the cause of this, some 
say one thing and some another, and we would 
gladly hear from you, Amphitryon, the whole 
truth about the matter." 


" I will tell you the tale from the beginning," 
said Amphitryon, and thus he told it. " My 
brother and I were the sons of the King of 
Argos, that ancient city beloved of Hera, and 
when our father died, we should, by his com- 
mand, have divided the kingdom, but my brother 
turned the folk against me with lying accusations, 
and I was forced to fly for my life, with my new- 
wedded bride. And we came to dwell at Thebes, 
where I was well received of the citizens because 
I had good repute as a warrior. At that time 
they made war upon certain islanders of the 
West, and I was chosen captain of their host 
because their prince was yet a child. By favour 
of the gods, we were conquerors in that war, and 
came home to Thebes laden with much spoil. 
Now it was late at night when we reached the 
city, and I would not sit down to feast and carouse 
with the rest, but hastened to my own house, 
that I might greet my wife. I found her asleep, 
and I awoke her, thinking to see her overcome 
with joy at my safe return, but she showed not 
the least surprise at the sight of me, and when 
I told her of the victory and the spoils, she said, 
' All this, Amphitryon, you told me last night 
when you came home.' You may guess, princes, 
how these strange words troubled me ; at first I 
thought my wife was crazed, but when I had 
questioned her closely, I perceived that some god 


had visited her in my likeness. For she knew 
everything that had passed in the war, and he 
who had been with her, gave her a golden girdle, 
saying it was from his share of the spoil. Now 
I myself had brought her a golden girdle, and 
when we laid the two side by side they were alike 
down to every petal of the lotus flowers embossed 
upon them. But Alcmena, my wife, believed 
that I had played a trick upon her, and it vexed 
her so that she showed me great coldness, and my 
heart was much disquieted. Then, one night I 
dreamed that the King of the Gods stood before 
me in all his majesty, and said : ' Be not cast 
down, Amphitryon ; it was I who visited Alcmena, 
having a desire to behold and converse with her 
in mortal shape, because it was reported to me 
that she is the fairest of all women alive. Tell 
her this, and say Zeus bids her be reconciled to 
you. Also she shall have a sign from me that 
she may believe, for twin sons shall be born to 
her before a year goes by.' And as the god 
promised, so it came to pass. 

" Now, when the two babes were five days old, 
as I was sitting in the market-place with elders 
of the city, my wife's handmaids ran shrieking 
towards us, and loudly called ' Help ! help ! 
Two monstrous serpents are in our lady's chamber 
devouring her children.' I cried to my neighbours 
to follow, and rushed with drawn sword into my 


house. What think you I saw, my guests, as I 
darted into the chamber of Alcmena ? She, her- 
self, half-clad as she had leapt from her couch, lay 
fainting by the cradle, her arms thrown round one 
child, and two huge snakes were writhing on the 
floor beside her. But they were writhing in death ! 
The other babe sat upright in the cradle, and his 
tiny hands were gripping their scaly throats so 
fiercely that the breath came in hissing gasps 
from their red foaming jaws, and their glaring 
eyes seemed bursting from the sockets. For one 
instant that sight rooted me to the threshold- 
then, even as I sprang forward, the heads of the 
monsters fell back, and with a throttled cry they 
breathed their last. My little son looked up at 
me gravely, and, unclenching his hands, he let 
the lifeless bodies drop thudding to the ground. 
Then did I, and the men that followed me, give a 
mighty shout of joy, and it roused Alcmena from 
her swoon of terror, and she caught both children 
to her breast, sobbing for gladness. News of the 
marvel brought all the city flocking to our doors, 
and with the rest came blind Teiresias, that aged 
seer. Forthwith he prophesied to us concerning 
the child, and said this deed was but the beginning 
of wonders that he should do all his life long. 
For Hera, he said, had sent those serpents, because 
it angered her that Zeus praised the beauty of 
Alcmena in the presence of all the gods, saying 


he had seen none fairer in earth or heaven, and 
the jealous goddess would avenge that slight 
by contriving many another dire encounter for 
Alcmena's son. Yet all the perils she brought him 
into should but work him the more renown, and 
therefore he should be named Heracles, which is, 
being interpreted, * Glory that cometh of Hera.' : 
When Amphitryon had made an end of his 
story, both the Twins kept silence for a space, 
and then Castor said, " Marvellous, in truth, are 
the ways of the Immortals. But I would fain 
hear one thing more ; is there no hope thrt the 
wrath of Hera may yet be turned from your son, 
our dear comrade, or will she be his enemy for 
ever ? '' " Teiresias foretold that she would make 
peace with him at last," answered Amphitryon ; 
" nay, he spoke of strange bliss that she would 
grant him one day, when he should rest from toil 
and suffering in an eternal home. But, with your 
pardon, I will not repeat that prophecy, for it 
well-nigh passes belief that any man born of 
woman should be exalted to such a height of 
glory as it foreshadowed, nor do I desire it should 
be known." " You do wisely to conceal it," said 
Polydeuces, " for what men cannot credit, they 
are ever ready to mock at. But I also would 
hear one thing, if it be not unpleasing to you. 
Since Alcmena has two sons, how is it that Hera's 
hatred pursues Heracles, and not his brother also?" 


"I can but guess," said Amphitryon, "that her 
anger rests specially on the child who slew her 
ministers, the serpents. Darker to me is the 
cause of the measureless difference between my 
twin sons ; the strength of Heracles you know, 
and can bear me witness that it is as the strength 
of a god, but Iphicles, his brother, is no stronger 
than other men. It is not so with you, noble 
sons of Tyndareus, whom I knew at first sight of 
you by report from Heracles, for he said also that 
you were alike in prowess as in form and face." 

Long and late the Twin Brethren sat in 
Amphitryon's hall, and still their talk was of 
Heracles and his mighty deeds, of which his 
father had much to tell that they had never 
heard. For Heracles himself was very loth to 
speak of his own wondrous acts to his friends. 
Next morrow they took farewell of their host, 
and set forth again to seek Heracles and his army 
in the West, and made good speed upon the road, 
but for all that, he was already returning home- 
ward when they met him, so when glad greetings 
had passed between the friends, the Twins told 
Heracles how they had come in hope to fight by 
his side, and asked what the feud was with King 
Augeas, and how it ended. And Heracles told 
them all the adventure, as it is set down in the 
tale of " The Pansy Baby." But whilst he told of 
the games held at the temple and tomb by the 



ford, a new thing befell him, for Zeus sent the 
spirit of prophecy upon him, so that he began to 
speak like a seer, with chanting utterance, and 
fixed, unseeing gaze. "Sons of Leda," he said, 
" I have dedicated a sanctuary yonder by the river 
for great Zeus, the protector both of me and 
you, and I purposed to return ere long to see 
the temple a-building. But it is revealed to me 
even now that my time on earth is short, and 
there is yet much work ordained for me to 
accomplish before I pass away by a fiery doom. 
Therefore I go not home till I have taken a far 
journey, and brought to the sanctuary of Zeus 
that which it sorely needs, for it lies in a treeless 
plain, and no pleasant shade defends men there 
from the scorching noonday sun ; but I will plant 
it with shoots of those fairest trees which I saw 
once in the Land Beyond the North Wind, when 
I had chased through a thousand leagues of forest 
the Hind with the Golden Herns. And when I 
have done this, I must pass to those other labours 
that await me, and before the fourth year comes 
round, I shall be gone from earth. Now, I 
appointed the fourth year for the renewal of the 
Sacred Games, and since I may not hold that 
second festival, I charge you both, as you are 
true comrades to Heracles, fail not to hold it in 
my stead. And now, farewell." 

Then, before the Twins could stay him, he 


turned and left them, going northward with great 
strides, and they, sad at his words, went to their 
own home. There was great joy in the house of 
Tyndareus at their home-coming, and after that, 
they wandered to far lands no more, though 
many a brave deed and strange adventure were 
theirs in neighbouring countries. 

Now, when the fourth year was come, and the 
midsummer season drew on in which Heracles 
had held his festival, Castor and Polydeuces went 
to the sanctuary by the Western river, to fulfil 
their friend's last charge, and beheld the temple 
of Zeus that lamos the Seer had builded, and a 
grove of young trees about it, the like of which 
they had never seen. For these were the first 
olive trees that ever grew in the land of Greece, 
and Heracles had brought them as he purposed 
from the Land beyond the North Wind. Then 
they asked lamos if he had any tidings of Heracles^ 
of whom they had long heard nothing, save con- 
fused rumours of his distant wanderings. " This 
very day," said the seer, " that great spirit has 
departed from among men. Yes, for it was 
shown me in a vision how he met the doom of 
fire, and entered by that flaming gate into ever- 
lasting bliss. Heracles had taken to wife the fair 
Princess Deianira, and he loved her truly, but in 
her folly she doubted of it, and caused him to 
wear a tunic which she had anointed with a 


certain magic philtre. That philtre was the 
blood of Nessus the Centaur, whom Heracles 
shot with a poisoned arrow because he offered 
insult to Deianira, and Nessus gave it her, as he 
lay dying, telling her that it was a potent love- 
charm. Thus was the Centaur avenged, for the 
poison of the arrow was in it, even the deadly 
venom of the hundred-headed snake that Heracles 
slew of old, and dipped his shafts in its black 
gore. So, when Heracles put on that tunic, it 
clung, like eating fire, to his mighty limbs, and 
in agony he strove to tear it off, but could not, 
for the poison glued it to his flesh. Then, when 
he saw he must die in that torment, he com- 
manded a great funeral pyre to be raised and 
kindled on the hillside, and cast himself alive 
into the flames. Thus, in the sight of men he 
seemed to perish, but I say to you, sons of Leda, 
that in those flames the hero ascended bodily to 
the halls of Zeus. Weep not for the comrade 
you loved, for even now Queen Hera smiles upon 
him, and leads him to the heavenly marriage- 
feast, where he shall sit enthroned by her daughter 
Hebe, youngest of the goddesses, whom Zeus 
gives him for his bride." 

Then said Castor, " Let us build here another 
altar, and offer sacrifice to Heracles as to a god, 
forasmuch as he, our man of men, is henceforth 
numbered with the Immortals." And Polydeuces 


said, " We will do so, yet, lest there be jealousy 
in heaven, let us build altars also to the Twelve 
Greatest Gods, save Zeus, whose altar Heracles 
himself has built already." This was done forth- 
with, and all the mightiest gods looked down 
with favour on that Second Festival of the Games 
that Heracles founded. 


AFTER these things, a feud began between King 
Tyndareus and another king, who was his kins- 
man and neighbour, ruling a country on the 
western border of Laconia. This king's name 
was Aphareus, and he had two sons, Idas and 
Lynceus, youths of the same age with Castor and 
Polydeuces. Idas had no little renown as a 
warrior, and he was very fair to look upon, but 
Lynceus was swart and small in stature, and all 
his delight was in woodcraft. It was hateful to 
Lynceus to dwell within the four walls of a house, 
and he passed his days and nights in the wide 
forest, and lived by hunting. And he was the 
best of hunters, though he had neither strength 
nor skill in archery ; never man could track the 
game as he did, for he had lynx-eyes, that saw 
through rocks and through trees, and through 


the earth. Now, when the two kings fell to 
feud, their sons began to make forays over the 
border, and raided the cattle of their enemies ; but 
at first King Tyndareus had the greater loss, 
because Lynceus could spy his herds from leagues 
away, and told his brother where he might sur- 
prise them. But Idas kept a herd of red cows 
that he set great store by, and one day Castor and 
Polydeuces came upon them feeding in a vale, 
and drove them off across the border, and the 
herdsmen fled to tell their lord. Then Idas rose 
up in great wrath, and swore that he would not 
rest till he had slain those Twin Brethren, and 
Marpessa his wife heard him. This Marpessa 
had great beauty, so that many princes had sought 
her in marriage, and even a god was among her 
suitors. For the golden-haired Apollo himself 
came to her father's house, and wooed her to 
be his bride, but she chose rather to wed Idas, 
and she said to the god, " When I am old and 
grey, shall I be still dear to you, who are young 
continually ? Nay, let me wed a lover who will 
grow old along with me, to whose age-dimmed eyes 
I shall still seem fair." And Apollo bore Marpessa 
no malice for her choice, but was ever a friend to 
her, and gave her timely warning of a doom that 
threatened her husband. Therefore, when she 
heard the angry words of Idas, she besought him 
not to plan death for the Twin Brethren, for 


that, she said, would prove his bane, if Apollo 
had told her truly. But Idas paid her no heed, 
and he bade Lynceus be on the watch for those 
two marauders continually, so that when next 
they came, he might lay some ambush for them. 
Not many days after, Castor said to his brother, 
" Let us make another raid beyond the border, 
and see if there are not other cattle of Idas in 
the glens of Mount Taygetos." So they came by 
stealth to the wooded mountain, and it chanced, 
as they went along, that Castor caught his foot 
in the root of a beech, and fell, and his foot was 
sprained in the fall. Polydeuces tore a strip from 
his cloak, to bandage it, and looked for water, 
but there was none at hand. "I will go find a 
spring," he said, " and bring water in my helm to 
lave your foot, and ease the pain. Only, I fear 
lest the sons of Aphareus be abroad in these woods, 
and come upon you thus helpless." " Do you see 
yonder hollow oak ? " said Castor ; " that were a 
safe hiding-place, if I crept within it." " Well 
thought of," said Polydeuces, and kneeling down, 
he drew Castor's arms round his neck, and bore 
him on his back to the hollow tree. Then, 
placing him carefully within it, he heaped brush- 
wood against the trunk to hide the opening, and 
went in search of water. But Lynceus was perched 
on a crag of the mountain, keeping his watch, 
and while Polydeuces was gone, he cast his eyes 


towards the glen where Castor sat in the oak, 
and saw him through the tree-trunk as through 
clear crystal. Down the rocks he bounded like 
a wild goat, and flew to tell Idas, and they both 
ran to the oak with the speed of the wind. 
Never a word said Castor when he saw their 
fierce faces, knowing full well that his hour was 
come, but as Idas dragged him forth and plunged 
a dagger into his side, he cried with a great voice 
on his brother's name. Polydeuces heard the cry, 
for he was that moment returning, and with a 
roar like a wounded lion's, he rushed upon the 
sons of Aphareus. Panic fear seized them at 
that sudden onslaught ; they turned and fled 
before him into the depths of the forest, yet 
though they had the name of the swiftest runners 
alive, he overtook them in a dusky hollow, where 
a white headstone marked a solitary grave. Beside 
that tomb, the resting-place of a king, their fore- 
father, Idas and Lynceus turned to bay, and as 
Polydeuces poised his spear for a throw, they 
heaved aloft the headstone and hurled it upon 
him. Full on the breast it struck him, but he 
stood firm in his godlike strength, nor flinched 
from the blow, and the next instant, his spear 
pierced the heart of Idas, and Lynceus, in act to 
flee once more, fell dead on his dead brother, 
stricken by a thunderbolt from the blue. 

For Zeus looked down with pity on the children 


of Leda in their hour of anguish, and sent swift 
vengeance on Castor's murderers. So perished 
those two brothers, and the green grave of their 
forefather was their funeral pyre ; there, with 
none to pay them the last rites, their bodies 
smouldered to ashes in the sulphurous flames of 
the thunderbolt. But Polydeuces sped back to 
his brother, and found him not yet dead, though 
already the failing breath rattled in his throat. The 
hot tears broke from his young eyes at that sight, 
and with a deep groan, he said, " Do you see this, 
O Zeus on high ? Alas, what hope, what help 
is left to me, most wretched ! Now, King of 
Gods, take away my life also, for what profits 
it a man to live, bereft of his heart's friend ? ' 
Then straightway Zeus himself, in his own shape 
of majesty, stood before him, with compassionate 

" Polydeuces," said the god, " you know not 
what you ask. Death has claimed Castor, because 
he is the son of a mortal father, but on you death 
has no power, for you are not the son of Tyndareus, 
nor of any man. I myself gave you being, and 
brought you for a gift to Queen Leda, a tiny 
babe, shut in the shell of a swan's egg. But now, 
since you so love him whom you called brother, 
that you strive to share his lot whether for good 
or ill, I set a choice before you. It is yours, if 
you so choose, to abide henceforth for ever in my 


palace halls, where you shall find comrades meet 
for your warrior soul, even Athena, and Ares, Lord 
of War. Or, if that content you not, you may 
give half your birthright of immortality to Castor, 
and the two of you shall lead a double life, 
dwelling one day in the Nether World of the 
dead, and the next, in the golden houses of Heaven. 
Think well, Polydeuces, what your choice shall 

But in the faithful heart of Polydeuces there 
was no thought of self. " Great Zeus," he cried, 
" save my Castor, and be the rest as it may." 
The god laid his hand on Castor's eyes, already 
closed in death, and they opened, bright with new 
life ; he touched the blue gasping lips, and the 
rose-red flushed them once more. Castor drew 
a deep breath, and raising himself on one arm, 
he said, " Brother, I have surely slept. I thought, 
but it was a dream, that Idas and Lynceus set 
upon me while you were gone." 

With a cry of joy, Polydeuces flung himself 
into his arms, and when he looked up from that 
embrace, they were alone. Then he told Castor 
what had befallen, and how King Zeus himself 
had stood beside them ; but Castor had seen no 
one save Polydeuces when his eyes opened, for 
they were holden from the sight of the god. 
Now the touch of Zeus had made him whole 
from head to foot, so that he rose up and walked 


lightly at his brother's side, and they came home 
at the setting of the sun. But as the Twins 
passed into the palace, the sun went down, and 
they fell lifeless on the threshold, for that day 
was Castor's day of doom, nor could Zeus him- 
self give him one hour of earthly life, beyond his 
destined span. Then there was weeping and 
wailing in the house of Tyndareus, and Queen 
Leda tore her golden hair for sorrow, beholding 
those pale, silent forms of her beloved sons. 
From ancient times, the kings of Laconia were 
buried in rock-hewn sepulchres on the hillside 
without their city, and in such a vault Tyndareus 
laid the Twin Brethren. And all the land 
mourned for them many days. 

At this same time, Leda's nurse, now very 
aged, lay on her death-bed, and when she felt 
her hour was come, she sent for the King and 
told him all she knew, and showed him the 
swan's feather and the broken eggshell to prove 
her tale. Tyndareus was filled with rage that 
his wife had so deceived him, and reared as his 
lawful heir a child who was none of his, and he 
burst with drawn sword into her chamber, for he 
had a mind to kill her. 

" Basely have you dealt with me, Leda," he 
cried to her, " and a bitter woe has your deceit 
brought on my house. Yes, I well believe that 
the gods, to punish such falseness, have cut off 


my only son, together with that stranger whom 
you dared to call his brother. Now must I go 
childless to my grave, but you shall not live to 
see it." 

Pale and trembling stood Leda before the 
furious King, but she answered never a word. 
Then suddenly a great light shone round about 
her, and Tyndareus saw the Twin Brethren hover- 
ing in that glory above her head. " My father," 
said Castor, in a voice of celestial sweetness, 
" be not wroth with our dear mother, for all she 
did was commanded her by most high Zeus." 
And he revealed the whole truth to Tyndareus, 
and bade him and Leda grieve no more, because 
both he and Polydeuces were happy for ever. 

"To you also," he said to them, "Zeus grants 
happiness beyond the lot of other mortals, not 
that your children shall reign after you, but that 
you shall be called the father and mother of the 
Heavenly Twins, the Saviours of men." When 
Castor had thus spoken, the glory faded away, 
and the radiant Brethren vanished with it. 

But, ever after, just such a light would often 
play over masts and sails of ships in peril at sea, 
and immediately the tempest would cease. Some- 
times, in its sudden glare, the sailors caught 
sight of two princely youths standing on their 
deck who disappeared the next instant. Often, 
too, men hard pressed in battle saw two strange 


warriors fighting in their ranks, arrayed in silver 
armour, and riding on snow-white steeds, and 
they were liker each to the other than any twins 
that were ever seen. Before the charge of those 
riders, the bravest foes, although they were ten 
to one, broke and scattered in headlong rout, but 
always when the victory was won they vanished 
into air. A last a rumour spread (but none could 
say how it arose) that these workers of deliver- 
ance were the twin sons of Leda, whom the 
gods had taken to themselves in their youthful 
prime, and given them power to become saviours 
of men after their death, as Heracles, their 
comrade, was in his lifetime. And thereafter 
shrines were built in many cities to Castor and 
Polydeuces, whither many a warrior and seaman 
whom they had succoured in dire peril came 
with grateful heart to pay his vows of thanks- 

" Back comes the chief in triumph 

Who in the hour of fight 
Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren 

In harness on his right : 
Safe comes the ship to haven 

Through billows and through gales, 
If once the Great Twin Brethren 

Sit shining on the sails." 



IN the days when the world began, there was 
an isle of the sea where the first roses bloomed 
wild on the first rose trees that ever grew. From 
its mountain peaks down to the very margin of 
the sparkling waves, the isle glowed with their 
crimson blossoms all the year, for in those days 
Earth had perpetual spring. But this rose- 
embowered land was like a fair garden haunted 
by deadly serpents, for the folk who dwelt in it 
were all wizards and warlocks. They were not 
as other men, but could change their shape to 
what they pleased, and they had the evil eye, 
which has power to blight every living thing it 
looks upon. The people of the neighbouring 
isles and coastlands lived in continual dread of 
that tribe of sorcerers, who were named the 
Telchines, because, in the malice of their black 
hearts they would sink ships by their enchant- 
ments, and come flying on the wings of the wind 



to blast crops or bewitch cattle by their baleful 

In that far-off time, Zeus and his brethren 
were yet unborn, and Kronos, the old sky-god, 
was king over all. Now Earth, the mother of 
gods and men, prophesied to Kronos that one 
of his own children would drive him from his 
heavenly throne, therefore he sought to destroy 
them at their birth. But Rhea, his wife, hid 
them all as soon as they were born, and put 
stones wrapped in swaddling-bands into their 
cradles, which Kronos cast into a pit of dark- 
ness, in mistake for his children. The youngest- 
born was Zeus, and him his goddess-mother 
carried secretly to a cave on a lonely mountain, 
where the Fairies of the Rocks nursed him, and 
the Wild Men of the Woods kept up a din of 
nights with drums and cymbals, lest Kronos 
should hear his baby cries. And when the 
young god grew to his full strength, he brought 
Earth's prophecy to pass, for he drove his father 
from the sky to the Sunset Isles at the World's 
End, and sat upon his throne. That self-same 
day, certain ancient women, lame and limping, 
stood before the throne, and Zeus asked them 
who they were. " We are the Prayers of Men," 
they answered, " sent up from earth to call down 
vengeance on the evil Telchines, who, by foul 
magic, lay waste fields and vineyards, and strike 


dead the firstlings of the flocks. We are lame, 
like all our sisterhood, and hobble slowly on our 
errands, yet of all messengers we are the surest 
in the end." Then the wrath of Zeus was 
kindled against that wizard-folk, and he hurled 
down red-hot thunderbolts, and rained a great 
rain upon the sea, till its waters boiled like a 
cauldron, and broke in monstrous billows over 
the isle of the Telchines. The bed of the 
deep rocked and heaved where the thunderbolts 
crashed upon it through the seething waters, 
and in that shock the foundations of the isle 
crumbled beneath it, and it sank with all its 
roses fathoms down under the waves. So 
perished the Telchines, yet there were some of 
them who by their art had foreknowledge of 
the coming doom, and fled betimes to another 
land, where, for fear of Zeus, they wrought 
evil no more, but won a great name for skill in 
the working of iron, which they, of all mortals, 
first found a way to forge and temper. 

Now Zeus kept for himself the kingdom of 
the sky, and gave his brother Poseidon dominion 
over the seas and rivers, but as for the Earth, 
he portioned it out by lot among the other gods. 
But it so chanced that Helios, the Sun-god, was 
not present with the rest at the drawing of lots, 
and thus no land was allotted for him to call 
his own. Pure and holy was that light-giving 



god, and when next he came into the heavenly 
halls, it grieved the Immortals that they had 
forgotten him and left him portionless. Then 
Zeus would have cast lots again, but Helios said, 
" Nay, King of us all, of that there is no need. 
For, as I journey from East to West in my 
flaming car, I have looked down into the deeps 
of the sea, and have seen a fair isle growing 
up under the waves, as it were a rose upon its 
stem. Let that isle be my portion when it rises 
into upper air, and bid the Three Weird Sisters, 
whose word is law in Earth and Heaven, promise 
with a binding oath that it shall remain my 
heritage for ever." 

So Zeus called the Three Weird Sisters, and 
they came and stood before him, grey-haired 
women, robed in grey. Now they were older 
than Time and the beginning of things, yet none 
who looked on their calm faces could tell if they 
were old or young. The First Sister was winding 
black threads and white threads on a spindle ; 
the Second was spinning with a golden distaff; 
the Third had in her hand a pair of shears. And 
the threads were the lives of men, which, when the 
Second Sister had spun to the length ordained for 
them, the Third cut short with her glittering 
shears. Zeus bade them swear as Helios desired, 
and they said, " We will swear by the Loathly 


Water, for that great oath binds all the ever- 
lasting gods." Forthwith Zeus sent Iris his 
messenger to fetch some of that water, which 
rises in a fount called Styx, that is to say 
"Hateful," and falls down a cleft of the Earth 
into the Under World. Colder than ice is the 
Loathly Water, and deadly to drink, and the 
strongest vessel cannot contain it, for it shivers 
even iron in pieces. But the gods know that the 
only cup which can hold it is an ass's hoof, and 
in such a cup Iris brought it to the Three Sisters. 
Then the Second Sister held the cup on high, and 
swore by the Loathly Water that Helios should 
be lord of the isle, from the day it arose out of 


the waves to the end of time, and she poured out 
the water on the ground. For she it is who 
gives to all that live, both gods and men, their 
share of good and evil, but the other two have 
power in the hour of birth and of death. 

It was the sunken land of the Telchines that 
Helios had marked springing upwards like a tree 
from its root in the ocean floor, and not many 
times did he journey round the sky before it 
shone, green as emerald, on the silver breast of 
the sea. The Sun-god poured down his keenest 
rays on the hills and vales until the salt ooze of 
the deep was dried up from their leafy thickets, 
once blossoming with a million roses. Those 


flowers had perished in the waves, but a fairer 
flower lay in the midst of the wild-briar coverts 
a sleeping maiden with cheeks like rose-leaves and 
hair golden as the rose's heart. Helios beheld 
her in joy and wonder, and hastened his fiery- 
footed horses westward, that he might visit this 
treasure of his isle when he had stabled them in 
his ocean palace. Then, in the purple twilight, 
he came to the bower where the maiden lay still 
sleeping, and awoke her with a kiss. And her 
eyes opened from a slumber of years to behold 
that radiant god, for she was the Fairy of the 
First Rose Trees, who had slept an enchanted 
sleep ever since the sea closed over the Telchines' 
isle. In all the Earth, Helios the all-seeing had 
seen nothing so lovely as her face, and he pro- 
mised, if she would be his bride, to make her 
Queen of his sea-born land and call it by her 
name, and from that hour to this, it has been 
called the Isle of the Rose. But at first she wept, 
because all her flowers were drowned, and where 
her tears fell, they became white roses, and the 
white roses she kissed turned red. 

Seven sons were born to Helios and the Rose 
Fairy, who, when they were grown to manhood, 
gathered a folk together from overseas, and 
builded a fair city on a hill of the isle. Then 
they said to their father, " We would have a 


temple in the high place of our city, according 
to the custom of men, wherein one of the Im- 
mortals may abide, and bless us as his own people. 
And we know that this land is yours for ever, 
therefore in your honour we will build the temple." 
But Helios forbade them, and said, " It is not foi 
me, who day by day must guide the chariot of 
the sun, to dwell in any temple made with hands. 
I will teach you what you must do to win a divine 
guardian for your city. There is rumour in 
Heaven of a prophecy uttered by Mother Earth 
that a new goddess will be born ere long, whose 
mighty power will prosper with boundless wealth 
and glory the city she chooses for her abode. And 
it is foretold that she will choose the city of those 
who first honour her with a burnt sacrifice. So 
now build a temple, even as you desire, and be 
ready, when you hear tidings of such a birth, to 
offer a sacrifice forthwith to the new Immortal." 
The seven princes did as they were bidden, and 
they laid wood on the altar of the temple, ready 
to be kindled when the time came. Now it 
befell, while all the gods sat in council one day, 
and talked together, after their manner, about the 
affairs of mortals, that Zeus fell into deep thought, 
pondering how he might rule his kingdom for 
the best. Then, on a sudden, his brain throbbed 
with mighty pangs, and he cried aloud in his 


anguish to Hephaestus, the lame smith of the 
gods, " Take your axe, Hephaestus, and cleave 
open my head, lest it burst in pieces, for this 
pain is as it were a live thing, struggling to come 
forth." Straightway Hephaestus heaved up his 
axe, and cleft the head of Zeus, and behold, a 
thick cloud of fiery vapour rose up from the 
wound, like a pillar of smoke. But even as the 
astonished gods looked upon it, its form was 
changed to the likeness of a woman of tall stature 
and glorious aspect, wearing a crested helm, and 
brandishing a spear, and she sprang down in the 
midst of them, uttering a great war-whoop. At 
that cry, the heavens trembled, and the earth was 
shaken, and the gods themselves shuddered on 
their golden thrones. And the Four Winds car- 
ried the tidings East and West and South and 
North, that a new goddess was born into the 
world, the daughter of Zeus without a mother. 
The seven sons of Helios no sooner heard it, 
than they took offerings of all the first-fruits of 
their land, and hastened to the temple they had 
built, which crowned the hill whereon their city 
stood. But in their haste, they forgot one thing ; 
when they had laid the sacrifice on the altar, 
they found too late that none of them had 
brought fire to kindle the wood, and so they left 
the offering there unburnt, praying the daughter 


of Zeus to accept it with favour, and went their 
way. Meanwhile, the men of another city, though 
they knew not the prophecy concerning the god- 
dess, were zealous to do her honour as soon as 
they heard the wondrous tale of her birth, being 
indeed the most pious folk in all the world, and, 
after the sons of Helios, they were the first of 
mankind to offer her sacrifice, nor did they neglect 
to burn it with fire. Therefore the daughter of 
Zeus came to abide in their city, and was its 
mighty defender ever after, and because she loved 
it exceedingly, she made it more glorious than 
any other city has been, or will be. And from 
its name, which was Athens, she took her own 
great name of Athena. 

Nevertheless, the goddess was not unmindful 
of the prayer of the seven princes, whose sacrifice 
was the first, although it was imperfect, and she 
-asked Zeus to reward them for honouring her, 
with some gift that would make their city flourish. 
So Zeus, for her sake, snowed golden snow upon 
the Isle of the Rose, which sprinkled all the hills 
with glittering flakes, and filled the valleys with 
dazzling drifts, till the Sun-god's children and 
their people were weary of gathering it, and their 
storehouses were full to overflowing with the 
wondrous treasure. After this, Athena herself 
appeared to the seven princes, fair and terrible, in 


her shining armour, and said to them : " My father 
has recompensed your good intent towards me 
with showers of gold, but I will give you a gift 
far above wealth, even the gift of wisdom. For 
I have wisdom beyond all the Immortals, except 
King Zeus, because I was born from his brain, and 
I can bestow it on whomsoever I will. Now, 
then, you shall become wiser than the wisest seers, 
and have such knowledge of all arts and handi- 
crafts that you shall work greater wonders by 
pure skill than ever the Telchines did in this isle 
by unhallowed wizardry." And as the goddess 
promised, so it was ; the children of Helios be- 
came master-workers in every craft then known 
among men, and of many more they were the first 
inventors. No such skilful shipwrights ever lived 
before, no such cunning artificers in metal, no 
such marvellous builders of masonry. But most 
of all their fame went abroad for works which all 
who beheld them deemed things done by witch- 
craft, for there was no shape of man, or beast, or 
bird, but they could make an image of it, molten 
or graven, so perfectly that it seemed alive. Re- 
port of these marvels, and their boundless wealth, 
drew strangers from all lands to the Isle of the 
Rose, until the seven princes were forced to build 
other cities also, because of the multitude of their 
folk. So, in the after time, the land of the First 


Roses, the Sun-god's chosen heritage, became the 
home of a great people, and its name was famous 
in all the earth for their riches, and for those 
same arts which the seven sons of Helios learned 
by grace of Athena. 


' I 'HERE was a king of the olden time who 
A heard a prophecy that the child of his only 
daughter would destroy him. This daughter was 
the loveliest princess in the world, and her name 
was Danae. Her father loved her well, but when 
he heard that prophecy, he shut her up all alone 
in a brazen tower, and let no one come near her 
except himself, for he thought, " My daughter 
shall never marry, lest she have a child who 
brings me doom." The fair young princess was 
very lonely in her tower ; all day she had nothing 
to do but comb her golden hair and spin with 
her silver distaff, and gaze through barred case- 
ments at the hills and woods, where she longed 
to wander free. The stern King forbade her 
even to show herself on the roof of the tower 
by day, but at night she would often go there 
to weep and bewail her lot under the stars. Now 
it chanced one midsummer night, that the King 
of all the Fairies saw her weeping, and heard 

her saying that she would not be so unhappy 



if only she had one living thing to love and to 
play with in her prison. He took pity on the 
captive princess, and when she lay down to sleep, 
he came and whispered in her ear, " Danae, the 
Fairies have sent you a playfellow." Danae 
awoke, and behold, a shower of gold was falling 
round her and drifting into a heap upon her 
bed. But when she put out her hands to touch 
the Fairy gold, the heap turned into a beautiful 
little child, whose yellow hair was bright as sun- 
shine. Overjoyed, she took him into her arms, 
and hushed him to sleep, but she herself could 
sleep no more that night for thinking of this 
wonderful gift the Fairies had sent her. 

Next morning, the King came as usual to the 
tower to see how his daughter fared, and found 
her playing with the child. " Daughter," said 
he, " whose child is this, and how came he 
here ? " 

" He is mine," said the princess ; " the Fairies 
have sent him to me, in pity for my loneliness." 

At these words, fear and wrath possessed the 
King, for it seemed to him that this must be the 
child spoken of in the prophecy. Moreover, he 
did not believe the Fairies had sent him, but 
thought that Danae had by some means con- 
trived to have him brought into the tower so 
that she might rear up a child to slay her father 


and release her. So that cruel King shut up the 
princess and the babe in a great chest, and had 
it thrown into the sea. But the gods did not 
suffer them to perish ; the chest drifted to an 
island, where certain fishermen drew it ashore in 
their nets, and, having opened it, ran to tell the 
King that a lovely lady and her child were 
cast in wondrous wise upon his shores. The 
island King received Danae with all kindness, 
but when he asked her who she was, she would 
only tell him that she was a princess from a far 
country, who had escaped from shipwreck in 
that chest with her little son. For she feared 
the Fairy child would be taken from her, if she 
told all the truth. 

Now, because of Danae' s beauty, the island King 
would fain have wedded her, but she would have 
none of him, saying that all her love was given 
to her son, and when the King saw that his suit 
was vain, he began to hate Perseus, for so the 
child was called. Yet he bided his time until 
Perseus was grown a lad, and then, with a show 
of friendliness, he said to him, " Such a noble 
youth as you are should not be content to live 
in sloth at his mother's side, when there are 
great deeds to be done. I know of an adventure 
that will bring you everlasting fame, if you can 
brave the peril of it." 


" Tell me what it is," said Perseus, " for I long 

to win renown.' 

" Far in the West," said the King, " there 
dwell three wondrous sisters, called the Gorgons, 
who have the faces and forms of beautiful women, 
but they are winged, and instead of tresses black 
snakes grow on their heads. Two are immortal, 
but the third, whose name is Medusa, is mortaj, 
and to slay that dire creature were a feat worthy 
of the mightiest hero." 

Forthwith Perseus was fired with longing to 
achieve that enterprise, and he set out on the 
quest, in which he would have perished, as the 
King hoped, had not a goddess befriended him. 
Athena, who loves the brave, came to meet the 
youth as he drew near the lonely western moun- 
tain where the Gorgons dwelt, and he greeted 
her without fear, for in those days the Immortals 
walked freely among men. 

"Prince," she said, "how is it you are come 
without a shield to slay Medusa ? r 

" I have my sword," said Perseus, " and why 
should I need a shield ? ' 

Then the goddess told him a thing that the 
King purposely kept hidden from him, namely, 
that Medusa's eyes turned all who looked on 
them to stone. " Take my burnished shield," 
she said, " and look thereon as on a mirror, while 


I lead you backwards to the Gorgons. She whom 
you will see in the shield, sitting between her 
sisters, is Medusa, and by help of that mirror 
you must make shift to smite off her head." 

Perseus did just as he was bidden, and with 
eyes still fixed on the bright shield, he cut off 
Medusa's head at one blow. Then the other two 
Gorgons rose on their great wings into the air, 
and hovered above their dead sister, shrilling out 
a weird lament. There was strange beauty in 
that mournful strain ; tears filled the eyes of 
Perseus as he listened to it, nor did Athena 
herself hear it unmoved. And in after times 
she devised the first flute, that she might imitate 
the Gorgons' wailing tones, and taught mortals 
to play thereon the tune which is still called 
"Medusa's Dirge." 

But now, as the Gorgons sang, Perseus saw a 
wondrous sight. Forth from the ground where 
Medusa's blood lay in a dark pool, sprang a 
four-legged creature, the like of which neither he 
nor any man had ever seen. For it was the First 
Horse. Perseus ran to the beautiful, prancing 
beast to seize him by the mane, but the First 
Horse had wings, and straightway he soared aloft 
and passed from sight. Then Athena took 
Medusa's head and fixed it in the centre of her 
shield, and she covered it with her veil. " Take 


this home with you," she said to Perseus, " and 
use it as you shall see need, but remember that to 
look on it is death." 

Now when Perseus came home, he found that 
the island King had bound Danae in chains and 
cast her into a dungeon because she would not 
wed him. So he uncovered the shield, and 
brandished it before the eyes of the King and his 
servants, and they were turned to stone. After 
that, he achieved many adventures by help of the 
Gorgon shield, before Athena took it to herself 
again, because the power of it was too great to be 
left in mortal keeping, and in the end he slew 
Danae's father, yet he did that by mischance. 

Thus the prophecy was fulfilled, and thereafter 
Danae and her Fairy child lived happy to their 
lives' end. But now hear the story of the First 

That day he was born from the Gorgon's blood, 
he flew over land and sea to a high mountain, 
nigh to a city called Corinth. There was no water 
on the mountain for him to drink, but he stamped 
with his shining hoof upon the ground, and a clear 
spring gushed forth. This was seen by certain 
woodcutters, who went hastily to the city and 
told the King that a marvellous beast had appeared 
on the mountain. Then the King's son, whose 
name was Bellerophon, went to hunt the beast, but 


when he saw the First Horse, he wished to take 
him alive, for he seemed as gentle as he was 
beautiful, and showed no fear of man. But the 
Horse, though he let Bellerophon come near, and 
stroke his neck, broke away whenever he tried to 
hold him, or to jump on his back, till at last the 
King's son went home discouraged. And the 
people of Corinth called the strange new creature 
Pegasus, which means " Wellspring ' in their 
language, because he made the water flow. Now 
Bellerophon thought for many days how he might 
catch the Horse and tame him, and at length he 
asked the seer of the city what to do, saying, " If 
I could but master this Pegasus, he would carry 
me swifter than the wind." "My counsel is," 
said the seer, " that you go this night to the 
temple of Athena and pray the goddess to help 
you. Then lie down to sleep on the altar, and 
it may be she will show you some device in 
a dream." Bellerophon followed his counsel 
and scarcely had he fallen asleep when Athena 
appeared to him in a dream, and said, " Awake, 
King's son of Corinth. Behold, I bring you a 
golden charm which will tame Pegasus as soon as 
you bind it about his jaws. And when you are 
lord of him, offer a white bull to Poseidon, the 
Earth-shaking god, and hang up the charm over 
my altar, for we two, in love to this city, sent the 



First Horse hither to be the servant of man." 
Bellerophon awoke, and he was alone, but he 
knew he had had a true vision, for behold a 
golden thing lay beside him, the like of which 
was never seen on earth before. He showed it to 
the seer, and told the vision, and then joyfully 
he hastened to the mountain with the charm. 
Pegasus stood still as though enchanted while he 
slipped it over his head and between his teeth, 
and from that moment the King's son could guide 
him at will. Thus, ever after, Corinth had 
renown as the place where the First Horse was 
tamed by help of the First Bit and Bridle. 
And two memorials of the wonder remained there 
to later ages, even the Fountain Pirene, which 
Pegasus made to flow from the hillside, and that 
golden gift of Athena, which Bellerophon, as she 
bade him, dedicated in her temple. 

Now Bellerophon rode his winged steed far and 
wide over land and sea, wherever he heard of 
monsters to be slain, or wicked kings to be over- 
thrown, and he ridded the earth of many such, 
shooting his arrows upon them from the bosom 
of the air. 

But at last, in the pride of his heart, he boasted 
that he would mount up to Heaven and enter the 
abode of the gods, and so he came to no good 
end. For Zeus caused a gadfly to sting Pegasus 




as he soared upward, and his sudden plunge 
threw Bellerophon from his back. No mortal 
eye saw rider or horse again, and of the rash 
prince's fate those who were wisest spoke the 
least, but of Pegasus it was told that he rested 
thenceforth in those shining stalls where the horses 
of the gods feed from golden mangers. 



)SEIDON and Apollo, who were ever fast 
A friends, once took such displeasure at King 
Zeus that they plotted to drive him from his 
throne. But he was ware of it, and armed him- 
self with his flaming thunderbolts, wherewith to 
dash the rebels down from the battlements of the 
sky into the Lake of Darkness under the earth. 
And this he would have done, had not the gentle 
Leto, Apollo's mother, stayed his uplifted arm, 
and entreated him to spare her child. Then 
Zeus, for love of that fair, gracious goddess, said 
he would not cast Poseidon and Apollo into the 
gloomy Under World, but they must atone for 
their fault by a year of penance on earth, and 
dwell as hired servants in the house of some 

So the two gods wandered through many lands 
in the guise of labouring men till they came to 
the city of a king called Laomedon, and offered 
to serve him for a year. The King was content, 



and agreed with them for a certain wage, which 
he said he would pay them at the year's end. 
Now Apollo seemed a mere lad, and him the 
King sent to keep his sheep among the hills, but 
Poseidon appeared a strong, full-grown man, fit 
for the hardest toil, therefore he was set to the 
work of a mason. Laomedon soon saw that his 
new servant was a marvellous builder ; no one 
had ever been seen in that land who could hew 
stones into shape so deftly, and lay them so truly 
in their courses. One day he called Poseidon to 
him, and said, " I see, churl, that you do not lack 
for skill, and I have a task for you that will put 
it to proof. This city of mine has no defences 
but earthen ramparts, and palisades of timber ; 
build me a wall of hewn stones round it, and look 
that the work be done by the year's end." 

"What men shall I have to help me, King?" 
said Poseidon. 

"You shall have none, churl," said the King, 
" unless you choose to call the lad, your comrade, 
from the sheepfolds." And he went away laugh- 
ing in his beard. 

This Laomedon was a hard man, and very 
greedy of gain, and he had spoken thus to 
Poseidon with intent to defraud him of his 
wages, for he never dreamed that one pair of 
hands could build a wall round the city within a 
year, and he meant to send away the stranger 


without payment when the time came, on the 
pretext that his task was not performed. But 
Poseidon sent word to Apollo to come and help 
him, and day by day the wall rose higher and 
higher under their tireless hands, until a thick 
ring of massive stone encircled the city, pierced 
with gateways that were flanked by lofty towers. 
Only, at one point, there remained an opening 
wide enough for a man to pass through, where 
the wall was still unfinished. All this was done 
by the last day of the full year that the two 
gods were bound to serve Laomedon, and on the 
morning of that day, he himself came to view the 
wall. Then said Poseidon, " Be pleased, O King, 
to pay the wage promised to me and my fellow, 
for the year is over, and the wall is builded." 
But Laomedon spied the gap in the wall, and 
with feigned anger he said, " Base churls that you 
are, you have left your task undone, and do you 
presume to claim wages ? Begone, or I will make 
you rue this insolence." " Take heed to your 
words, Laomedon," said Apollo, "we have served 
you faithfully, and claim but our just due. As 
for yonder gap, an hour's work will suffice to 
close it, and that we will see to before departing." 
" Do you bandy speech with me, malapert boy ? " 
cried the King. " I tell you, since the sun is 
risen already, the work is not completed by the 
day appointed. Now, by all the gods, if you 


loiter here but till to-morrow, I will spoil that 
dainty face of yours, and crop the ears from your 
head." So saying, he turned and strode haughtily 
away. "Apollo," said Poseidon, "I have a mind 
to swallow up this King in an earthquake, and his 
city along with him, for the year of our servitude 
is ended, and I am free to use my power once 
more." " Nay," said the golden-haired god, 
" that must not be. I can foresee the doom 
that waits him, but the cup of his iniquity is not 
yet full. I will tell you what we may do to pre- 
pare the way of the comer who shall destroy him. 
If this wall were wholly built by immortal hands, 
the city could never be taken by an enemy, but 
if we cause a mortal man to fill up the gap we 
have left, then other mortals will be able to make 
a breach through his handiwork. Let us go hence, 
and seek some skilful builder among men, whom 
we may bring hither to finish the wall ; so, when 
Laomedon sees it to-morrow, he will believe that 
we ourselves closed the gap." " I know of such 
a builder," said Poseidon. " Wait for me the 
while, and I will bring him to you." With that, 
he went quickly to the sea-beach near the city, 
and called up his white horses from the deep, 
and straightway they came to him, harnessed to 
his golden car. Poseidon mounted the chariot, 
and urged his horses onward over the sea-waves 
till he came to a certain island that was called 


Aegina. Here dwelt a wise and holy king named 
Aeacus, so famed for his justice that the gods 
themselves resorted to him for judgment when 
disputes arose between any of them. Aeacus 
was born in that island, and grew up there all 
alone, for in those days it was desert, but at last 
he prayed to Zeus that he might have folk to 
rule over, and Zeus turned all the ants of the 
island into men. And these men did not know 
how to plough and sow, nor the use of fire, nor 
how to build houses, until Aeacus taught them 
all these and many other arts, which he had 
found out for himself. This King it was who 
first made sailing-ships, and coined silver into 
money, but in nothing was he more skilful than 
in building with stone. 

When he now saw Poseidon, he greeted him 
as a friend, for the gods were no strangers to his 
house, and having heard what service was required 
of him, he entered the golden chariot, and they 
came swiftly over the sea to the city of Lao- 
medon. Then Aeacus built up the gap in the 
wall, and before sunset he put the coping-stone 
on his masonry, which was fitted so smoothly to 
the rest that no eye could see where the gap had 
been. But, as he laid the last stone in place, the 
watching gods cried to him to draw back, and he 
stood aside to mark a strange marvel. Two huge 
serpents came gliding along, proudly arching their 


emerald necks, straight to the new-finished wall, 
and hurled themselves upon the battlement. It 
seemed their mighty spring would carry them 
clear over it, but their bodies struck the stone- 
work with a dull thud, and the monsters fell 
back, writhing in throes of death. Instantly a 
third serpent, whose head was crested with golden 
plumes, darted to the spot, reared its great coils 
aloft, and sprang over the wall, uttering no 
serpent's hiss, but, strange to tell, a ringing 
battle-cry. Straightway Apollo bounded to the 
wall, and laying his hand upon it, thus he spoke : 
" To you, Aeacus, this sign is sent by Zeus, who 
has you ever in his keeping. Hear now what it 
betokens. The three serpents are three princes 
of your blood who will fight against this city ; 
two must perish beneath its wall, but the third 
shall break in at this very place where your own 
hands have raised the bulwark, and shall burn the 
city with fire." 

"Prophet of Zeus," said Aeacus, "when shall 
these things come to pass ? " 

" In the fourth generation," answered Apollo, 
" for those princes are your children's children 
yet to be. But hear this also ; although the city 
will not be destroyed in your lifetime, you will 
live to hear that it is taken in war by your own 
son, and in that day the wicked Laomedon shall 
be slain, who has dealt so treacherously with us." 




While Apollo spoke, the sun went down, and 
twilight fell upon land and sea. Aeacus saw two 
chariots draw near, glimmering in the dusk, and 
on one of them Apollo mounted, and went north- 
ward swifter than the wind. Then said Poseidon, 
" Apollo goes to the land beyond the North Wind, 
to visit the folk who honour him above all gods, 
and hold high festival with them now his year of 
servitude is past. And I too will visit the temple 
I love best of all that mortals have built for me, 
which stands between two seas, not far removed 
from your island of Aegina. Come, let us be 
going, for I will bring you home on my way 
thither." So the three builders departed from 
the wall, and in the morning Laomedon came 
again, and was well pleased because it was finished, 
and the labourers he hired were gone without 
payment. But as for the bodies of the two 
serpents, they were vanished from the place before 
he came. 

After this, Laomedon gathered all the people 
of the land into his city, bidding them dwell no 
more in villages, as aforetime, because he had 
built a stronghold where they might be safe from 
every enemy, and being exceedingly proud of his 
fair town, girdled with that many-towered wall, 
he commanded them henceforth to name them- 
selves Trojans, after the name of it. For that 
city was called Troy. 


Now Poseidon could not endure to see the evil 
King in such prosperity, and ere long he caused 
the sea to overflow his land, even to the walls of 
Troy, so that crops and cattle were swallowed 
up. Then Laomedon called the soothsayers to 
advise some remedy against the flood, and they 
all declared that the waters would not roll back 
from the land until a certain sea-monster was 
appeased with prey, which they said swam every 
night to the city walls. The King had sheep and 
goats and oxen thrown into the waters, but to no 
purpose, and at last the soothsayers told him 
nothing would satisfy the monster but the flesh of 
a young maiden. Thereupon the King made all 
the Trojan maidens draw lots, which should be 
thrown to the beast, and behold, the lot fell on 
his own daughter, Hesione. But it chanced that 
Heracles, on his travels about the world, came 
that very day to the house of Laomedon, while 
all were loudly bewailing the doom of the prin- 
cess, and having heard the matter, he said to the 
King, "What reward will you give me, if I slay 
this monster ? ' 

"Whatever you will," said the King, "to the 
half of my kingdom." 

"I shall be content," said Heracles, "if you 
will give me two horses of that wondrous breed 
which men say the gods gave to your father." 

"Gladly will I give them," said the King, and 


immediately Heracles waded out into the flooded 
meadows where the monster lay wallowing, and 
shot him dead with arrows from his mighty bow. 
Then the sea-waters drew back like an ebbing 
tide, so that the Trojans saw the carcase of the 
fearful creature, with huge jaws opened wide, 
lying stranded on their fields, as it were the black 
hull of a great ship. Nevertheless, Laomedon 
hardened his heart to yet another deed of wicked- 
ness, and drove Heracles awav with threats and 


revilings, when he claimed his reward. " This is 
your hour," said Heracles, as he went away, " but 
mine will come." For he was bound on an errand 
of the king whom he served at that time, and 
might not delay to fight in his own quarrel. 


WHEN Aeacus came back to his island, heavy 
tidings were brought to him, for it had chanced 
that while his three sons were playing at quoits, 
the eldest threw his quoit slantwise, and it struck 
the youngest on the head, and killed him. Now 
the two elder were the sons of their father's first 
wife, but the youngest, whose name was Phocus, 
was the child of their stepmother. So when the 
two elder princes saw that their half-brother was 


dead, they fled out of the island, for their father 
loved him the best, and they feared lest he 
should believe they had murdered the lad out 
of jealousy. These princes were called Telamon 
and Peleus, and the adventures that befell Peleus 
are known to you already. But Telamon, the 
eldest, was betrothed to the daughter of a king 
who ruled the island called Salamis, and to that 
island he fled, while Peleus went to seek his 
fortune in distant lands. There Telamon took 
a solemn oath that he had slain Phocus by mis- 
chance, and the King of Salamis purified him 
of the blood-guilt by prayer and sacrifice, as 
the manner was, and promised to give him his 
daughter in marriage when he had mourned for 
his brother a year and a day. Before that time, 
however, the King fell sick and died, and because 
he had no son the folk of Salamis chose Telamon 
to rule over them in his stead. Thus he became 
King, and at the year's end he married the 

On his marriage day, Telamon held a great 
feast in his house, to which all the men of the 
island were bidden, both rich and poor, and while 
they sat at table, one of his servants told him 
that a stranger stood at the gate, desiring to 
speak with him. 

" What manner of man is he," said Telamon, 
" and why do you not bring him into the hall ? " 


" He seems in haste to depart, O King," said 
the servant, "and as for who or what he is, we 
know not, but he is strangely arrayed. He has 
no garment but a lion's-skin girt about him, and 
carries the hugest bow that ever man saw." 

" It is the noble Heracles," cried Telamon, 
" my father's friend and mine," and he ran to 
the gate to welcome him. Heracles, for he it 
was indeed, at first excused himself from coming 
in to the banquet, saying that he had come on 
other business than merrymaking, as might be 
seen from his rough garb. "You shall tell me 
of that when vou have eaten and drunk," said 


Telamon, " for it is ill talking between a full 
man and a fasting. Come, you shall not deny 
me ; this, you must know, is my marriage-feast, 
and it is a lucky chance that brings me such 
a guest to grace it." With that, he brought 
Heracles into the hall, and set him in the seat 
of honour, and the feast went merrily on. Then, 
when all had their fill of good cheer, Telamon 
bade his cup-bearer fill a great golden cup with 
wine, and, taking the goblet, he gave it into 
the hand of Heracles, saying, " My noble guest, 
pour out now the accustomed libation, for you 
are worthier than I." And thereby he paid 
Heracles the highest mark of honour, since it 
was his own right, as lord of the feast, to pour 
out the first drink-offering to the gods. Now 


the custom of the drink-offering was that when 
men began carousing after a feast, their cups 
were filled thrice with wine, and at each filling 
one cup was poured out to some god with a 
prayer for blessing, but always the first cup of 
those three was offered to Zeus. Heracles took 
the golden goblet, and rose up, and thus he 
prayed as he poured the wine on the ground : 
" Hear me now, King of Gods, if ever prayer 
of mine could win your grace. Grant that a 
son may be born to Telamon, my friend, as 
brave in soul and as strong in body as the lion 
whose hide I wear, even that mighty beast I 
slew at Nemea, in the first of my fights with 
savage monsters." Even as he spoke, an eagle 
flew into the hall through the open doors, 
perched a moment on the oaken rafters, and 
flew forth again. " Rejoice, Telamon," cried 
Heracles, " for Zeus has sent his own bird in 
sign that he will grant my prayer. You will 
have the son your heart secretly longs for, and 
when he is born, call him, I charge you, after 
the eagle." Heracles said this with rapt look, 
and chanting voice, like a seer when the spirit 
of prophecy comes over him, and forthwith he 
sat down. Presently Telamon asked him what 
that errand was that brought him to Salamis, 
but Heracles said, " I came to call you to a 
fray, and little thought to light on a wedding- 


feast. Let us speak of the matter to-morrow, 
for I will not mar these revels with talk of 

So, on the morrow, he told Telamon that he 
needed a warrior comrade to sail with him to 
Troy and fight against Laomedon, who had used 
him very evilly ; and Telamon was so eager to 
share the adventure that he commanded a ship 
to be made ready, took leave of his bride, and 
set sail with Heracles that very day. Laomedon 
heard news of their landing, and went out to give 
them battle with all his men. 

That day those two valiant comrades did 
wondrous feats of arms, and, with the crew of 
one ship, they fought the whole army of Troy, 
until they drove them in flight to their walls. 
Many were slain as they fled, but Laomedon 
and the greater part of his host escaped into 
the city, and barred the gates behind them. 
Then, shouting his war-cry in a voice like 
thunder, Telamon sprang to the wall, and, in 
the very spot where the serpent crossed it, he 
battered it down with the butt-end of his spear, 
and rushed through the breach, calling Heracles 
to follow. And Heracles came after, bending 
his terrible bow, and shot Laomedon through 
the heart in the midst of the city. When the 
people saw their King fall there was no more 
spirit in them. "Troy is taken," they cried, 



and implored mercy of the conquerors. Thus 
did vengeance overtake that treacherous King. 
Heracles took all the treasures of his house, 
and all the wealth of the city, and divided the 
spoil, giving a due portion to all his followers. 
Now three sons of Laomedon were slain in the 
fight, but his youngest, who was yet a child, 
was found hiding in the palace with his sister, 
the Princess Hesione, and they were brought 
as captives to Heracles. The princess wept and 
wrung her hands, crying, " Alas, great champion, 
will you slay this child for his father's sin ? " 

" Nay, princess," said Heracles, " that would 
be far from me. I would set him free, for 
my own part, but my comrades have a right to 
divide the captives among them by lot. Never- 
theless, you shall ransom him at a price from 
the man to whom the lot gives him. As for 
yourself, I may claim you for my own prize, 
because I am leader." Then they drew lots for 
all the captives, and the little prince fell to the 
lot of Telamon. 

"Chieftain," said Hesione, "what ransom will 
you take for my brother ? ' : 

" I will take the gold-broidered veil you 
wear," said Telamon. 

So Hesione ransomed her brother for that 
price, and gave him in charge to the elders of 
the city to be brought up. From that day the 


child was called Priam, which means " Bought 
with a price," and when he grew up he reigned 
as king in Troy. 

But Hesione was glad when she heard she was 
the prize of Heracles, for she had loved him 
since he delivered her from being cast to the 
sea-monster, and she said to him, " It were hate- 
ful to me to abide here now my father is dead. 
Let me follow you whithersoever you are going, 
my lord." 

" Fairest Hesione," said Heracles, ' I am a 
wanderer on the earth, and my road lies in 
perilous places, where I cannot take a maiden. 
I will send you with Telamon to Salamis, and 
for my sake he will treat you well, but as for me, 
I am going even now on another adventure." 

" I go not home without you, my comrade," 
cried Telamon. " Never shall it be said that I 
returned with spoils and captives, leaving you 
to face new dangers alone. Take me on your 
quest, whatever it be, and let me have the glory 
of fighting twice at the side of Heracles." Then 
Heracles consented, and when Telamon had sent 
his ship home with Hesione and the other cap- 
tives, and the booty, the two friends went east- 
ward to the country of the Amazons. For the 
king whom Heracles served had bidden him 
fetch for his daughter the golden girdle of the 
Amazon Queen. Now the Amazons were a 


nation of women, who suffered no men to come 
into their country, and they were warriors all, 
armed with brazen bows, and riding fierce swift 
horses. But how Heracles, with help of Tela- 
mon, overcame them in a great battle, and took 
the girdle of their Queen, who fell fighting, and 
what else the comrades did before they came back 
to Salamis, belongs to another tale. Here we tell 
only of the building of Troy and what came of it. 
A whole year was Telamon away, and when 
he came again to his house he found it full of 
mirth and gladness, because the son was born 
for whom Heracles prayed. Telamon remem- 
bered his friend's bidding, and called the child 
Ajax, which means " The Eagle " in the old 
speech of that land. And Ajax grew up a 
mighty youth, according to the prayer of 
Heracles, with a fearless soul that matched 
his stalwart body. Meanwhile King Aeacus 
heard all these things in Aegina, and sent for 
his son Telamon, desiring to be reconciled to 
him before he died. When the ship he had 
sent returned, Aeacus went down to the harbour 
to meet it, and saw his son standing on the deck, 
holding the young Ajax in his arms, and they 
greeted again with tears. But Telamon would 
not set foot on shore till he had solemnly called 
the gods to witness that he was guiltless of 
murdering Phocus his brother. 


Now while Telamon sojourned in Aegina, the 
time came for good King Aeacus to die, and in 
his last hour, he bade his son bring the child 
Ajax to him. And then he told the marvel he 
had seen at the building of Troy's wall, and how 
Apollo foretold from the sign of the Three 
Serpents that the city should twice be taken 
by warriors of his house, and the second time 
be utterly laid low. " The gods grant," he 
said, laying his hand on the head of Ajax, 
" that this my grandchild, may prove to be 
that Third Serpent, the conqueror." But that 
prayer was vain, for the fate of Ajax was other- 
wise ordained. He went indeed with the great 
host that beleaguered Troy in days to come, and 
of all the champions who fought in the long 
war, none did more valiant deeds than he, 
except Achilles, the son of Peleus. But those 
two were the two warriors sprung /from Aeacus, 
whose doom w<:s foreshadowed by the death of 
the first Two St:rpeat?. Who, then, was the 
Third, the golden -crested, .who, sprang with a 
cry of victory o^er ' : tfi6'.',new r buiit wall ? In the 
tale of Peleus and Thetis, it was told how 
Achilles wedded the king's daughter of the 
isle where his mother hid him, and left her, 
a mourning bride, to follow the way of glory. 
And he, the flower of all heroes, found death 
and o ^athless fame on the battlefield of Troy, 


and never saw the child whom the king's 
daughter bore to him in Scyros. Then came 
a prophecy to the Greek host that the city 
should never be taken without help of the son 
of Achilles, and they sent and fetched the young 
prince to their camp. The comrades of his 
father beheld the lad with mingled joy and 
pain, so like he was to their lost chief, and 
when he led them to the fight in shining arms, 
and flew lion-like upon the foes, the cry went 
up that Achilles was come back to life. And 
in no long time all Apollo's word to Aeacus 
was fulfilled, for that golden-haired youth 
was the golden-crested conquering Serpent who 
appeared to the Builders of Troy. 


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